Young People Dissatisfied with Body Image: Stress, Self-Esteem and Eating Problems

Abstract Young people are at risk for eating disorders. This study verified the relationships between body image (BI), perceived stress, self-esteem, eating behavior, and Body Mass Index (BMI) in 238 adolescents and young adults (14-20 years; 62.2% girls), using the Eating Attitudes Test, Perceived Stress Scale, Silhouette Matching Task, and Self-Esteem Inventory, measuring weight and height (BMI). Girls were at risk for eating disorders, greater concern about BI, more stress and lower self-esteem; boys showed desire to be more muscular. Results indicated that eating behavior and BMI were not associated, diverging from other studies; there were positive relationships between BI and BMI, and between diet factor and bulimia factor; and there were negative relationships between self-esteem and stress, and between BI and sex. We identified relations that may support preventive interventions, centered on variables such as anxiety about weight loss, stress and self-esteem in girls, and the desire to increase body mass in boys.