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Male Eating Disorders Part II: Male Subgroups and Eating Disorder Risk

Posted Nov 19 2009 10:01pm

Just as is true of females with eating disorders, there appear to be certain subgroups who are at higher risk for developing eating disorders.

For example, athletes whose weight is a factor in their performance are an especially vulnerable group.

Wrestlers, jockeys, runners, male gymnasts, and male dancers have a higher reported rate of eating disordered behavior than in the general population, due in part to beliefs and practices that see weight loss is a necessary requirement for peak athletic performance in their sports.

In addition, higher rates of eating disorders have also been reported in homosexual and bisexual males, with incidence reports as high as 20%. Other studies, however, have found no relationship between homosexuality and eating disorders, so the association remains in question.

Researchers also caution that there is nothing about homosexuality itself that increases the likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Instead, higher prevalence rates may be attributed to stereotypes
of physical attractiveness within the gay community and to increased help-seeking behaviors among gay males.

Another male subgroup that appears to be at greater risk is professional males where their appearance is influential, namely actors and male models.

Male subgroups with eating disorders face the same risk factors for developing EDs, including genetic, biological, social, cultural, psychological factors described in other Treatment Notes postings. Unhealthy diet behaviors and a history of weight issues place both females and males at greater risk.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series...

Source: Shepphird (2010). 100 Questions and Answers about Anorexia Nervosa. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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