Research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is negatively impacting mental health, with rates of eating disorder referrals in particular rising steeply during the pandemic. This study aimed to examine 8-month changes in body image and disordered eating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and explore whether any changes were moderated by gender, age, or eating disorder history. This study used a longitudinal survey design in which 587 adults living in the UK (85 % women; mean age = 32.87 years) completed assessments every two months over five timepoints from May/June 2020 to January/February 2021. Measures included body esteem, disordered eating, and psychological distress. Mixed effect models showed small but significant improvements in body esteem and disordered eating symptoms from May/June 2020 to January/February 2021. These improvements were independent of changes in psychological distress, and did not vary by gender, age or eating disorder history. Whilst poor body image and disordered eating may have been elevated in the early period of the pandemic, this study suggests improvements, rather than worsening, of these outcomes over time. This may reflect adaptation to this changing context.

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Sharpe, H., Newman, E., Robertson, M., Opitz, M., Peebles, I. & Duffy, F. 2022, 'An 8-month longitudinal exploration of body image and disordered eating in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic', Eating Behaviors, 46, article no: 101660. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101660

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Last updated: 26 October 2022
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