Eating disorders are frequent among elite performers of certain sports or physical activities; however, little is known about non-professional performers.
113 female non-elite ballet dancers, 54 female gymnasium users, 44 male non-competitive body builders, 105 female controls and 30 male controls were evaluated using the Body Uneasiness Test, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Eating Disorder Examination 12th edition (EDE-12).
Non-elite ballet dancers reported the highest prevalence of eating disorders (anorexia nervosa 1.8%; bulimia nervosa 2.7%; eating disorders not otherwise specified 22.1%), followed by gymnasium users (anorexia nervosa 2.6%; eating disorders not otherwise specified 18%). Significant differences (p < 0.01) between athletes and their controls were found in the following parameters (median values): Beck Depression Inventory (female dancers 5.7, gymnasium users 6.1, female controls 2.8, body builders 1.6, and male controls 1.3), Body Uneasiness Test (female dancers 1.08, gymnasium users 0.62, female controls 0.54, body builders 0.35, and male controls 0.27), EDE total scores (female dancers 1.6, gymnasium users 1.7, female controls 1.0, body builders 1.0, and male controls 0.4), EDE - restraint subscale scores (female dancers 0.8, gymnasium users 1.6, female controls 0.0, body builders 0.8, and male controls 0.0), EDE--eating concern subscale scores (female dancers 0.4, gymnasium users 0.2, female controls 0.0, body builders 0.0, and male controls 0.0), EDE--weight concern subscale scores (female dancers 2.1, gymnasium users 2.1, female controls 1.6, body builders 1.4, and male controls 0.5), and EDE--shape concern subscale scores (female dancers 2.7, gymnasium users 2.8, female controls 2.0, body builders 2.1, and male controls 0.9). EDE scores were highly related to Body Uneasiness Test scores, especially in non-elite ballet dancers and in non-competitive body builders (p < 0.01).
Non-professional performers of sports emphasising thinness or muscularity, such as ballet and body-building, show a high degree of body uneasiness and inappropriate eating attitudes and behaviours.