The perceived severity of obesity and eating disorders: effects of an information manipulation
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 10:57 authored by Bianca Bullivant
The increasing public health burden and comorbid occurrence of obesity and eating disorders has resulted in calls for integrated health promotion efforts. Understanding community attitudes, particularly around the perceived severity of these conditions, is critical in informing such efforts. This thesis aimed to elucidate the relative perceived severity of obesity and eating disorders. Furthermore, this thesis aimed to determine the effect of an information manipulation on the perceived severity of obesity and eating disorders, while also taking into account the potential influence of several covariates deemed to be of interest, namely: gender, age, BMI, body dissatisfaction, familiarity, perceived prevalence, causal beliefs, and physical and mental health status. Participants (N = 288) were undergraduate psychology students that were randomly allocated to complete one of four versions of an online survey in which the content of information concerning eating disorders and obesity was manipulated, namely: No Information, Neutral Information, Eating Disorders Information, or Obesity Information. Participants then completed measures assessing the perceived severity of obesity and eating disorders and the aforementioned covariates. Results suggest that eating disorders are considered to be a more severe health condition than obesity. Manipulating information about eating disorders and obesity had little effect on the relative perceived severity of these conditions. Findings from the current study suggest that in this population at least, there may not be a need to raise awareness of the significance of eating disorders. Future research in more diverse study populations and exploring the effects of different information content and methods of delivery is needed. This will be important in ensuring both problems receive the public health attention they deserve moving forward.