By: P. Scott Richards

During April, 1999, 296 students at Clark High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, completed the Eating Survey (Hardman & Richards, 1999). The Bating Survey is a 20-item measure that asks students to report how frequently (often, sometimes, rarely, or never) they experience dysfunctional eating and weight related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. A principal components factor analysis (with Promax rotation) revealed that the Eating Survey is composed of two factors that we have tentatively labeled: (1) Dysfunctional Beliefs and Attitudes about Food and Weight, and (2) Dysfunctional Eating Behaviors. Preliminary research we have conducted has provided evidence that young women who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa) score significantly higher on the Eating Survey than do young women and young men who do not have an eating disorder. Although further research is needed to prove it conclusively, based on our research to date, it appears that high school students who score above the 80th percentile on the Eating Survey either have an eating disorder or are at a high risk for developing one.

Selected Findings from 1999 Clark High School Survey

1. The average age of the survey respondents was 16.4. Two of the respondents were 19 years of age, 82 respondents were 18 years of age, 75 were 17 years, 49 were 16 years, 63 were 15 years, 24 were 14 years, and 1 was 13 years old.

2. One hundred and seventy-three respondents were female; 123 were male.

3.Nineteen (6.4%) of the respondents said they “often diet to lose weight,” and 61 (20.6%) said they “sometimes diet to lose weight.” Females were much more likely to diet to lose weight than were males.

4. Forty-eight (16.2%) of the respondents said they “often feel fat” and 82 (27.7%) said they “sometimes feel fat.” Females were much more likely to say they feel fat than were males.

5. Three (1.0%) of the respondents said they “often eat large amounts of food and make myself vomit,” 8 (2.7%) said they “sometimes” do this, and 11(3.7%) said they “rarely” do this. Thus, a total of 7.4% of the respondents admitted that they have on occasion binged and vomited. There were no significant gender differences in frequency of bingeing and purging.

6. Three (1.0%) of the respondents said they “often use laxatives to control my weight,” 4 (1.4%) said they “sometimes” do this, and 7 (2.4%) said they “rarely” do this. Thus, a total of 4.8% of the respondents admitted that they have on occasion used laxatives to control their weight. There were no significant gender differences in frequency of laxative abuse. 3

7.Thirty-three (11.1%) of the respondents said that they “often believe that there is something wrong with how l look,” 49 (16.6%) said they “sometimes” feel this way, and 96 (32.4%) said they “rarely” feel this way. Females were much more likely to believe that there is something wrong with the way they look than were males.

8. Four (1.4%) of the respondents said that they “often play games with food (e.g., lie about what I eat, hide food, cut food in small pieces),” 20 (6.8%) said they “sometimes” do this, and 31(10.5%) said they “rarely” do this. There were no significant gender differences in regards to the frequency with which the respondents “play games with their food.”

9.Eleven (6.1%) of the respondents said that they “often miss meals to control my weight,” 83 (28.0%) said they “sometimes” do this, and 103 (34.8%) said they “rarely” do this. Females were somewhat more likely to miss meals to control their weight than were males.

10. Forty-two (14.2%) of the respondents said that they “often feel that their greatest fear is of becoming fat,” 48 (16.2%) said they “sometimes” feel this way, and 72 (24.3%) said they “rarely” feel this way. Females were much more likely than males to say that their greatest fear is of becoming fat.

11.Forty-eight (16.2%) of the respondents said that they “often feel fat,” 82 (27.7%) said they “sometimes feel fat,” and 54 (18.2%) said they “rarely” feel this way. Females were much more likely to perceive that they are fat than were males.

12. Forty-three (14.5%) of the respondents had a body mass index (BMI) of below 18, suggesting that they were significantly underweight given their height. Females were significantly more likely to underweight than were males.

13.Seventy-three (24.7%) of the respondents scored within the abnormal range (within the distribution of scores obtained by women who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder and who are receiving inpatient treatment for it) on the Eating Survey total score. Females were much more likely to score within the abnormal range on the Eating Survey than were males.

14. Ninety-seven (33.4%) of the respondents scored within the abnormal range (within the distribution of scores obtained by women who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder and who are receiving inpatient treatment for it) on the Eating Survey’s “Dysfunctional Beliefs and Attitudes about Food and Weight” score. Females were somewhat more likely to score within the abnormal range on this scale than were males.

15. Sixty-five (22.0%) of the respondents scored within the abnormal range (within the distribution of scores obtained by woman who have been diagnosed with an eating 4 disorder and who are receiving inpatient treatment for it) on the Eating Survey’s “Dysfunctional Eating Behaviors” score. Females were significantly more likely to score within the abnormal range on this scale than were males.

In summary, the results of our survey suggest that approximately 30% to 33% of the high school students we surveyed at Clark High School in Las Vegas have attitudes and beliefs about food and weight that fall into the abnormal ranges and that put them at risk for eventually developing an eating disorder, 22% of these students also engage in dysfunctional eating behaviors that fall into the abnormal ranges, and 5% to 7% of them have already developed a diagnosable eating disorder.

Reference

Hardman, R. K., & Richards, P.S. (1999). Development of the Eating Attitudes and Behaviors Survey for junior and senior high school students. Foundation for Change, Orem, Utah.