Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric condition characterized by distorted body image. Research has shown that societal and cultural risk factors in industrialized societies encourage sufferers, mostly women, to be thin, and, therefore, significantly contribute to the rise in this dangerous disease's frequency.
The study was carried out by Dr. Liat Koren and Dr. Raheli Magnezi from the School of Health Sciences in Ariel University Center of Samaria. The study examined differences in knowledge and viewpoints on anorexia nervosa and body image amongst younger and older women.
The hypothesis was that the younger women would have less knowledge of the disorder's symptoms, positive perceptions of the disorder, and a lower body image than the older women.
The study was based on a survey of the knowledge, positions and behaviors of Israeli women from the general population between the years 2007 and 2008. The study sample was divided in two parts: 180 younger women (aged 15-25) and 180 older women (aged 45-65). Each participant filled out an anonymous questionnaire about their views of thinness, anorexia, their behavior, eating habits, body image, exposure to the disease, physical activity, and body weight.
Anorexia as a means to social ends
According to the questionnaires filled out by the 360 study participants, it was found that the younger women view anorexia as a type of tool or an "easy way" to gain social currency, such as popularity, acceptance, and success. It can be deduced from this that young women expect themselves to use anorexia as a way of becoming thin in order to gain social stature.
The researchers expressed deep concern for this younger group of women and are calling for immediate involvement in improving this group's knowledge of the disorder and in changing their dangerous perceptions.
The study's findings revealed significant differences in the knowledge and opinion of anorexia nervosa among younger and older women. In comparison with only 28% of older women, 51% of younger women displayed scant knowledge of the disorder's symptoms. Similar statistics were found in regards to low body image.
The study also showed that the younger group of women more frequently viewed anorexia nervosa as a helpful tool that could help them find work, make more social ties, and gain social acceptance and popularity than the older group of women. The younger women generally view the eating disorder as something to be admired.