Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes


across many different media outlets, including
toy action figures (e.g., G.I. Joe: Baghurst, Hol-
lander, Nardella, & Haff, 2006; Pope, Olivardia,
Gruber, & Borowiecki, 1999), Playgirl center-
folds (Leit, Pope, & Gray, 2001; Spitzer, Hen-
derson, & Zivian, 1999), pictures of male mod-
els in men's and women's magazines (Labre,
2005; Pope, Olivardia, Borowiecki, & Cohane,
2001), and the content of articles and advertise-
ments in magazines (i.e., increasing number on
health, fitness, and muscularity: Labre, 2005;
Petrie et al., 1996).
Linking these sociocultural changes to disor-
dered eating attitudes and behaviors, Botta
(2003) found that reading health and fitness, but
not fashion or sport, magazines was associated
with increased concern with muscularity (e.g.,
taking supplements to increase muscle mass),
and that adolescent boys who compared their
bodies with such media images also reported
increased drive for thinness and more bulimic
and anorexic behaviors than those who did not
regularly make such comparisons. Furthermore,
in direct tests of the effects of media exposure
on male undergraduates' attitudes and psycho-
logical health, researchers found that those who
were shown advertisements that contained im-
ages of lean and muscular men reported a
greater discrepancy between their current and
ideal body shapes (Leit et al., 2001) and had
higher levels of depression and muscle dissat-
isfaction (Agliata & Tantleff-Dunn, 2004) than
control groups. These studies suggest that not
only has the sociocultural environment
changed, communicating to men that they need
to achieve a lean and muscular physique, but
that men, like women, are negatively affected
by these sociocultural messages, specifically be-
coming more dissatisfied with their bodies, in
particular their arms, chests, and abdomens
(Ridgeway & Tylka, 2005), and being more
likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors.
Although men in general are at risk because
of the presence of these sociocultural pressures,
certain subgroups of men, such as athletes, may
be even more vulnerable to body dissatisfaction,
psychological disturbances, eating disorders,
and risky weight loss or weight gain practices.
This increased vulnerability is thought to result
from factors and pressures unique to the sport
environment, such as sport weight limits, team
weigh-ins, peer pressures, performance de-
mands, and judging criteria (Petrie & Rogers,

2001; Petrie & Sherman, 1999; Swoap & Mur-
phy, 1995; Thompson & Sherman, 1999a). For
example, in some sports (e.g., wrestling), ath-
letes must make specific weight limits or they
cannot compete, whereas in others (e.g., cross-
country), a low body weight is thought to offer
a performance advantage. Still, in others (e.g.,
diving), the aesthetics of the athlete's body
strongly influences the outcome of his perfor-
mance. Thus, in addition to the general pres-
sures that are present for all men, athletes may
experience direct and indirect pressures from
coaches, teammates, and judges to alter their
weight, strength, body size, and appearance in
hopes of improving their performances.
Initial research on prevalence suggests that
athletes do experience eating disturbances, but
that the highest rates are associated with sub-
clinical (as opposed to clinical) levels and with
specific pathogenic eating and weight control
behaviors. For example, Sundgot-Borgen and
Torstveit (2004) reported that 8% of elite male
athletes had some form of an eating disorder
(e.g., bulimia nervosa [BN], eating disorder-
not otherwise specified); Johnson, Powers, and
Dick (1999) found that no male collegiate ath-
letes met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for
Mental Disorders (4th ed, text rev.; DSM-IV-
TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN) or BN,
but 9.5% and 38%, respectively, were "at risk"
for those disorders. In separate studies of male
collegiate athletes, Sanford-Martens et al.
(2005) and Carter and Rudd (2005) reported
prevalence rates for clinical and symptomatic
categories of disorders that ranged from 0.0%
to 1.8% and 9.3% to 21.2%, respectively. In a
meta-analysis of athlete eating disorder re-
search, Hausenblas and Carron (1999) re-
ported positive effect sizes for male athletes
versus nonathletes on three different indices
of disordered eating-BN, AN, and drive for
thinness-indicating that athletes had slightly
higher rates of disturbance.
Regarding the use of pathogenic eating and
weight control behaviors, Johnson et al. (1999)
reported that male athletes had lifetime usage
rates of 26.6% (binge eating), 5.9% (vomit-
ing), 5.1% (laxatives), 3.7% (diuretics),
and 2.2% (diet pills); no data were provided on
the use of exercise as a weight control tech-
nique, even though it has been identified as the
primary mechanism that men use to improve


Petrie, Trent A.; Greenleaf, Christy; Reel, Justine J. & Carter, Jennifer. Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes. [Washington, D.C.]. UNT Digital Library. Accessed September 30, 2016.