My Body is a Temple: Eating Disturbances, Religious Involvement and Mental Health among Young Adult Women

Andrea K. Henderson, University of Texas at Austin
Christopher G. Ellison, University of Texas at Austin

A growing body of literature outlines the undesirable mental health consequences of eating disturbances. However, little attention has been given to the possible mitigating effects of cultural institutions, such as religion, in the lives of women suffering from such pathologies. I address this omission by investigating the relationship between eating disturbances, religious involvement and mental health. This study (a) outlines a series of arguments linking eating disturbances, specific aspects of religious involvement, and mental health; (b) identifies several distinct hypotheses from this discussion; and (c) empirically tests these relevant hypotheses with a nationally representative sample of young adult women using data from Add Health. Various aspects of religious involvement diminish the deleterious effects of eating disturbances on depression and self-esteem, lending support for the moderating (buffering) model. I conclude by identifying the limitations of the present study and by suggesting promising directions for future research.

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Presented in Poster Session 3