Symptoms of disordered eating and participation in individual- and team sports: A population-based study of adolescents

Eat Behav. 2020 Dec:39:101434. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101434. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


Aim: This study aimed to investigate individual and team sports participation across sex, age, and levels of body mass index (BMI). We also wanted to explore how symptoms of disordered eating (DE) were associated with participation in individual and team sports, and to what extent BMI moderated this association.

Methods: Data stemmed from a large population-based survey of 10,172 Norwegian adolescents aged 16 to 19 years. Self-reported participation in organized team- and individual sports were the dependent variables. Self-reported symptoms of DE using the five-item Eating Disturbance Screening (EDS-5) questionnaire comprised the independent variable. Covariates included sex, age, socioeconomic status, and BMI. We used regression analyses for associations between DE symptoms and sports participation, including the interaction between DE and BMI.

Results: Boys had higher team sports participation compared with girls. Individual and team sports participation varied significantly across BMI levels for each sex. Symptoms of DE were negatively associated with team sports participation (odds ratio [OR] = 0.90, p < 0.001), and were not significantly associated with individual sports participation. BMI scores moderated the association between DE symptoms and individual sports participation (p < 0.005). DE symptoms were associated with higher individual sports participation among individuals with low BMI, and with lower participation among those with high BMI.

Conclusions: DE symptoms are important correlates of sports participation among adolescents, but the direction of these associations partly differs across the weight spectrum. Promotion of factors that counteract DE is needed alongside efforts to increase physical activity and sports participation in the general adolescent population.

Keywords: Disordered eating; EDS-5; Eating disturbance; Population-based study; Sports participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sports*
  • Team Sports
  • Young Adult