Risk and maintenance factors for young women’s DSM-5 eating disorders

Antonios Dakanalis, Massimo Clerici, Francesco Bartoli, Manuela Caslini, Cristina Crocamo, Giuseppe Riva, Giuseppe Carrà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research with young women attending colleges, who are at the average age of eating disorder (ED) onset, established that the ED symptoms are not only prevalent but also relatively stable over the college period. Nonetheless, our knowledge regarding the course and modifiable factors associated with both the onset and maintenance of diagnosable (DSM-5) EDs in this population is limited. The objective of this report was to address these key research gaps. Data were examined from 2713 women who completed assessments of potential vulnerability factors and EDs in the autumn semester of the first (baseline) and fourth (follow-up) college years. A total of 13.1% of the sample met DSM-5 criteria for an ED diagnosis at baseline. At 4-year follow-up, 7.6% of the sample met DSM-5 criteria for an ED, with 67.5% of these cases representing women who had maintained an ED diagnosis from baseline, and 32.5% representing new onset EDs. Elevated appearance-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, self-objectification, dieting, and negative affectivity at baseline as well as changes in these factors between assessments all predicted onset and maintenance of DSM-5 EDs at 4-year follow-up. Self-objectification (thinking about and monitoring the body’s appearance from an external observer’s perspective) was the largest contributor to both ED onset and maintenance. In addition to enhancing our knowledge about the course of young women’s (DSM-5) EDs during college, this work highlights potentially similar psychological foci for prevention and treatment efforts. Implications for improving existing preventive and treatment approaches are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-731
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • DSM-5
  • Eating disorders
  • Longitudinal study
  • Maintenance
  • Onset

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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