Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Social, psychological and physical correlates of eating problems. A study of the general adolescent population in Norway

Lars Wichstrøma1 c1

a1 Research Council of Norway's Centre for Youth Research, Oslo, Norway


The characteristics and concurrent predictors of eating problems were identified. Ninety-seven per cent of a representative sample of Norwegian adolescents (N = 11315) completed a questionnaire containing a 12-item version of the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) and measures of a large number of physiological, psychological and social factors previously suggested to be of aetiological importance. Social class, drug use and indicators of ‘the model child’ (high grades, high occupational aspirations and much homework) were not related to eating problems. Logistic regression analyses identified perceived obesity as the strongest associated factor, followed by gender, depression, excessive exercise and unstable self-perceptions. In addition, adopting idols with perfect bodies, body dissatisfaction, low self-worth, feminine sex-role orientation, lack of parental care, early pubertal timing, age and number of alcohol intoxications all added to the probability of eating problems. About 6% perceived themselves as obese in spite of subnormal BMI. Such misperceptions increased the risk of high scores on EAT.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Lars Wichstrøm, The Research Council of Norway's Centre for Youth Research (UNGFORSK), Gaustadalleen 21, N-0371 Oslo, Norway.