Objective Eating disorders are a wide spectrum of psychopathologic behaviours which range in severity and are potentially serious conditions that significantly impair physical health or psychosocial wellbeing. In the last decade numerous studies have focused on prevalence of eating disorders (ED) in both athlete and non-athlete populations. A number of studies have founded that athletes are more susceptible to ED because they are more obsessive about their weight and are highly motivated to diet in order to improve their performance and physical appearance. Although, ED are reported to be more prevalent among females, some studies observed increase of disordered eating behaviours in males. The results for different countries and subpopulations also show large variations due to various reasons including intercultural differences, eating habits and behaviours.
The aim of this study was to examine by the means of EDE-Q and to compare the prevalence of eating disorders among Bulgarian university students according to their gender and sport participation.
Subjects and Methods A total sample of 431 students aged 18-26 years (female n = 266 and male n = 165) participated in the study. The students were divided in 2 groups: I – nonathletic – female (n = 62) and male (n = 40); II – athletes – female (n = 204) and male (n = 125). All participants completed an anonymous paper-based EDE-Q.
Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS-19. Descriptive statistics were computed for each of the EDE-Q scores. The differences between groups were tested by Mann-Whitney U test.
Results The mean scores (±SD) of the subscales of EDE-Q for the total sample of female students were as follows: Restraint - 1,47 (±1,42); Eating concern − 0,96 (±1,02); Shape concern – 2,01 (±1,5); Weight concern – 1,75 (±1,44) and Global score – 1,54 (±1,16). The EDE-Q scores for men were respectively: 1,34 ( ± 1,39); 0,65 ( ± 0,84); 1,30 (±1,07); 0,97 (±1,03) and 1,06 ( ± 0,91). The results showed significantly lower scores for male students as compared to female in the exception for Restraint subscale. Similar results were observed when compared the control groups of female and male nonathletes. The comparison of the two gender groups of athletes displayed significantly higher scores for women for Global score, Shape and Weight concern subscales. With regard to other two subscales – Restraint and Eating concern the athletes from both sexes score in the same manner.
We identified a high percentage of students from both sexes with binge eating behaviours as consumption of an unusually large amount of food and a loss of control over eating. However, the frequency of self-induced vomiting and laxative abuse by means of EDE-Q was low in both groups of students regardless of their sport participation. Excessive exercise aiming to control weight and shape is common practice with approximately equal frequency athletes and non-athletes from both sexes.
Conclusions This is the first study on the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms in populations of students in Bulgaria. The results showed higher incidence of eating disturbances in women than in men, but as regards to athletes the gender differences are less pronounced. Source of concern is that some abnormal eating behaviours are very common in this population.
Acknowledgement The authors would like to express appreciation for the support of the sponsor National Sports Academy “V. Levski”, Sofia
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