Examining social physique anxiety and disordered eating in college women. The roles of social comparison and body surveillance

Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Megan B. Harney, Lisa M. Brownstone, M. K. Higgins, Anna M. Bardone-Cone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Social physique anxiety has been found to be associated with disordered eating. However, what is not yet known is what behaviors college women may engage in that strengthen this relation. In the current study, we examined two possible moderating factors, social comparison and body surveillance. We examined whether these moderators might also generalize to trait anxiety, as well. Participants were 265 women attending a Southeastern university. Social comparison (both general and appearance-related) and body surveillance were tested as moderators of the relation between social physique anxiety and disordered eating. Results indicated that general social comparison, appearance-related social comparison, and body surveillance significantly moderated this relation. Individuals who were high in social physique anxiety and who reported high levels of general or appearance-related social comparison or body surveillance reported much higher levels of disordered eating than those with high social physique anxiety and low levels of these behaviors. Results indicated that only the trait anxiety × body surveillance interaction was significant in identifying elevated disordered eating. Results provide information regarding who may experience high levels of disordered eating in association with social physique anxiety, which has clinical implications including the conceptualization of social comparison and body surveillance as safety behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-805
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Body surveillance
  • Disordered eating
  • Social comparison
  • Social physique anxiety

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