The relative importance of dissatisfaction, overvaluation and preoccupation with weight and shape for predicting onset of disordered eating behaviors and depressive symptoms over 15 years

Helen Sharpe, Scott Griffiths, Tse Hwei Choo, Marla E. Eisenberg, Deborah Mitchison, Melanie Wall, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relative importance of dissatisfaction, overvaluation, and preoccupation with body weight and shape in predicting increases in disordered eating behaviors and depressive symptoms from adolescence through to early adulthood. Method: The study involved 1,830 participants (60% female) who completed the Project EAT survey during adolescence (mean age = 14.90 years, SD = 1.65 years) and again, 15 years later, in early adulthood. Participants provided assessments of dissatisfaction, overvaluation and preoccupation with weight and shape, as well as disordered eating and depressive symptoms at both time points. Results: The three aspects of body image had distinct patterns of association with the outcomes both concurrently and longitudinally. Dissatisfaction predicted depressive symptoms as well as a wide range of disordered eating outcomes, including dieting, unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWCBs), and binge eating, particularly in female participants. Preoccupation was associated with all of these disordered eating behaviors (but not with depressive symptoms) and was notably the strongest predictor of dieting and UWCBs in female participants. Overvaluation was associated with both disordered eating and depressive symptoms, although typically was a less potent predictor of difficulties than the other aspects of body image. Discussion: Dissatisfaction, overvaluation, and preoccupation are related but make distinct contributions to clinically significant outcomes. Models of eating disorders should move beyond focusing exclusively on dissatisfaction or overvaluation toward a broader conceptualisation of body image. Findings from this study particularly suggest the importance of considering preoccupation with weight and shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1175
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018



  • body image
  • depression
  • disordered eating
  • longitudinal
  • weight and shape concerns

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