Sexual harassment and eating disorders in female elite athletes - a controlled study

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2003 Oct;13(5):330-5. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0838.2003.00295.x.


The aims were to examine the percentage of female elite athletes and controls reporting sexual harassment and abuse (SHAB), and whether a higher percentage of female athletes with eating disorders (ED) had experienced SHAB. A questionnaire was administered to the total population of female elite athletes (n = 660) and controls (n = 780) aged 15-39 years. Sexual harassment and abuse were measured through 11 questions, ranging from light to severe SHAB. In addition, questions about dietary-, menstrual- and training-history and the Eating Disorder Inventory were included. The response rate was 88% for athletes and 71% for controls. Athletes (n = 121) and controls (n = 81) classified as "at risk" for ED and non-ED controls participated in a clinical interview. A higher percentage of controls compared with athletes reported experiences of SHAB in general (59% vs. 51%, P < 0.001). A lower percentage of athletes had experienced SHAB inside sports than outside sport (28% vs. 39%, P < 0.001). A higher percentage of ED athletes than non-ED athletes had experienced SHAB (66% vs. 48%, P < 0.01), both inside sport and outside sport. In spite of the fact that a higher percentage of controls compared with athletes had experienced SHAB, it is necessary to formulate clear guidelines, set up educational workshops and implement intervention programs for both ED and SHAB in sport.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires