Eating attitudes and body image concerns among female university students in the United Arab Emirates

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Objectives: A number of socio-cultural factors have been associated with the emergence of eating disorders in non-western nations. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is characterized by many, if not all of these socio-cultural factors. To date, however there have been very few studies exploring the prevalence of eating disorders symptomatology within the UAE. The present study investigates the prevalence of disordered eating attitudes within Emirati-female university students. It also explores the relationship between these attitudes and body image concerns. Design: A correlational study design was used to explore the prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes and their relationship with body image concerns. Method: 228 female students attending Zayed University in the UAE completed the Eating Attitudes Test 26 item version (EAT-26), along with the Figure Rating Scale: a visual scale used to assess current body size/shape estimation, preference, and dissatisfaction. Results: Exactly 24% of the sample scored above the EAT-26 cut-off, indicative of disordered eating attitudes and possible eating disorder. Additionally 74.8% of the participants were dissatisfied with their current estimated body image, furthermore disordered eating attitudes were positively correlated with body image dissatisfaction, and negatively correlated with body image ideals. Conclusions: The prevalence of disordered eating attitudes amongst the present UAE sample broadly mirrors those reported in nations where eating disorders have been widespread for decades. The widespread disordered eating attitudes in the present population may in part arise from body image dissatisfaction and ultra-thin body image ideals. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

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