Disordered eating attitudes in relation to body image and emotional intelligence in young women

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Abstract

Background:

A number of different psychological factors have been implicated in the multifactorial aetiology of disordered eating (DE) attitudes and behaviours; however, the possible role of emotional intelligence in DE symptomatology has not been thoroughly investigated in the past. The present study aimed to explore the possible differences in emotional intelligence, body image and anxiety levels in young females with DE attitudes and healthy controls.

Methods:

A total of 92 Greek female university students, 18-30 years old, were recruited. Subjects completed the following questionnaires: the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), the Multidimensional Body-Self Questionnaire (MBRSQ), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the BarOn Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (BarOn EQ-I).

Results:

The EAT-26 revealed that 23% of the subjects presented DE attitudes. Women in the DE atttitudes group had lower levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in comparison to the control group, particularly in factors such as emotional self-awareness (P < 0.05), empathy (P < 0.05), interpersonal relationships (P < 0.001), stress management (P < 0.05) and happiness (P < 0.05). The MBRSQ has revealed significant differences between the two groups in terms of overweight preoccupation (P < 0.001) and illlness orientation (P < 0.01). The DE atttitudes group had higher anxiety scores (STAI), although the differences were not significant. Finally, anxiety levels (STAI) were significantly correlated with levels of EI (BarOn EQ-I) (P < 0.001).

Conclusions:

The young women enrolled in the present study with DE attitudes, a potential precursor to eating disorders, appear to have significant differences in many psychometrical parameters of emotional intelligence, such as emotional self-awareness and interpersonal relationships, which is an important finding in terms of the prevention and management of DE, and warrants further investigation.

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