Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Health Sciences


Sarah R. Blackstone

Tracey L. Thomas

Aimee K. Johnson


Background: Eating disorders (ED) are mental illnesses characterized by unhealthy eating and exercise habits. These disorders are common in college students and, like other mental illnesses, eating disorders are highly stigmatized.

Objectives: This study evaluated how college students perceived anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, and the effect of eating disorder symptomology on stigma.

Methods: Participants were randomized to receive one of three vignettes depicting an ED. The study used the Universal Stigma Survey (USS), the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDEQ), and demographic questions to evaluate stigma, symptomology as well as their familiarity with, and diagnosis of eating disorders. The data were analyzed using SPSS and three multiple linear regression models were run to assess the impact of vignette condition and covariates on total stigma, blame/personal responsibility, and distrust/impairment.

Results: Sample size of 489 was used. Stigma scores were not significantly different across vignette conditions. Consistent predictors of lower stigma included female gender (β= -4.0,-2.46,-1.53) and knowing someone with an eating disorder (β=-2.1,-1.32,-0.78). Receiving the bulimia condition was associated with higher levels of distrust (β=1.23).

Conclusions: Although there was no difference in stigma between the three main eating disorders, being a female diagnosed with an eating disorder or having familiarity of eating disorders can lower stigma. The results of this study can inform health education curricula focused on eating disorders. Specifically, improving familiarity with ED may be a strategy to reduce stigma, which can extend improving treatment seeking behaviors among individuals with an ED.



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