De-gendering eating disorders… round 2!

Read this sentence, “The victim of sexual harassment also had a history of eating disorders.” I bet you thought the “victim” was a woman. Despite society’s tendency to associate sexual harassment and eating disorders with women, these are not purely “female” issues, a topic that our blog has covered before in this previous post.

There is a wealth of research on sexual harassment and eating disorders separately, particularly focusing on women. This fascinating study from the University of Michigan though was the first to investigate a potential relationship between sexual harassment and eating disorders. Findings revealed that while women report greater sexual harassment and respond to sexual harassment with greater shape and weight concerns, men are significantly more likely to engage in purge-type behaviors (like vomiting or taking laxatives) when they experience high levels of sexual harassment. These findings are yet more evidence of the societal trend in where men are increasingly suffering from eating disorders, a particularly worrisome issue considering that most treatment and prevention programs are specifically tailored to women.