The impact of COVID-19 on body-dissatisfied female university students

Yuan Zhou, Tracey D. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study investigated the impact of COVID-19 on young women's disordered eating and their responses to online interventions to reduce disordered eating. Method: University students at risk of developing an eating disorder (N = 100) were randomly assigned to either receiving an online intervention to reduce disordered eating or not. Forty-one participants entered the study from September 2019 to March 2020 (pre-COVID) and 59 after physical distancing was introduced due to COVID pandemic (during COVID). Online assessments were conducted at baseline and 1-week follow up. Results: There was a significant increase in weight concerns, disordered eating, and negative affect among participants entering the trial during COVID compared to pre-COVID. The increases in the first two variables remained when adjusting for baseline negative affect. No significant interactions between time, condition and COVID status were observed. Discussion: Young women experienced increased levels of disordered eating after the onset of COVID. While no interactions with COVID were detected, changes to within-group effect sizes for disordered eating more than doubled for both online interventions and assessment from pre-COVID to during COVID, suggesting any attention to issues related to disordered eating in the context of reduced social contact may be beneficial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1288
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number7
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • body dissatisfaction
  • COVID-19
  • disordered eating
  • self-compassion


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