Investigating social support and eating disorder characteristics in a non-clinical sample
Low social support from family members is a risk factor for the development of eating disorders (Ghaderi. 2003). However, Marcos, (2003) argued that social support is only linked to the development of eating disorders if satisfaction with social support is low. Bulimia sufferers generally express the strongest levels of dissatisfaction (Schmidt, Tiller & Treasure. 1993). This research sought to establish whether trends within clinical samples exist in a non-clinical sample with high levels of eating disorder characteristics. Better understanding of these issues is important for effective targeting of support to vulnerable groups and providing insight into an important issue associated with the development of eating disorders.
A questionnaire comprising the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) and social support scale was used to collect data from 156 participants. T-tests and Pearson correlations were used to analyse the data.
Obtaining social support from family was not associated with higher EDI scores (r(154)=.09; p>.05), but satisfaction with social support was (r(154)= -.20; p<.01 ). Participants scoring high on ‘Bulimia’ were least satisfied with their perceived social support (t(154)=2.14; p<.02).
The results do not support clinical findings that eating disorder characteristics are associated with less familial support, but do support findings that satisfaction with social support is associated with eating disorder characteristics. Implications for health psychology are that social support has a vital role in the development of eating disorders.