Eating disorder symptoms among undergraduate varsity athletes, club athletes, independent exercisers, and nonexercisers

Int J Eat Disord. 2009 Jan;42(1):47-53. doi: 10.1002/eat.20560.


Objective: To examine whether differences in eating disorder symptoms exist between women who are varsity athletes, club athletes, independent exercisers, and nonexercisers and to determine whether sports anxiety moderates any observed between-group effects.

Method: Two hundred seventy four female undergraduates completed the eating disorders inventory and the physical activity and sport anxiety scale and reported their exercise habits.

Results: Women who participated in sports tended to have higher levels of eating disorder symptomatology than those who did not. Higher levels of sports anxiety were predictive of higher levels of bulimic symptoms and drive for thinness. Finally, the interaction of sports anxiety and level of athletic participation significantly predicted body dissatisfaction and bulimic symptoms.

Conclusion: Coaches and clinicians should be aware that athletes experience higher rates of eating disorder symptoms than nonathletes. Moreover, sports anxiety should be considered as a possible target of therapy among athletes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Body Image
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data