Female collegiate athletes: prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors

J Am Coll Health. Mar-Apr 2009;57(5):489-95. doi: 10.3200/JACH.57.5.489-496.


Objective: The authors assessed the prevalence of pathogenic eating and weight-control behaviors among female college athletes, using a psychometrically valid measure.

Participants: Participants were 204 college athletes (M age=20.16 years, SD=1.31 years) from 17 sports at 3 universities. On average, they participated in their sport for 10.88 years (SD=16.68 years) and on their college team for 2.10 years (SD=1.03 years).

Methods: Participants completed a demographic and weight background questionnaire, Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnoses, and the Bulimia Test-Revised.

Results: The authors classified participants as eating disordered (n=4, 2.0%), symptomatic (n=52, 25.5%), and asymptomatic (n=148, 72.5%). Few participants engaged in binge eating; most used exercise, as opposed to vomiting, dieting, laxatives, or diuretics, to control their weight.

Conclusions: Female athletes suffer from eating disorders, and most experience symptom levels that are subclinical but problematic.

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Psychometrics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult