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European Eating Disorders Review 16 (4): 311-318 (2008)

Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination of women with anorexia nervosa

M-C Stewart , RS Schiavo , DB Herzog , DL Franko
Limited research indicates that public attitudes toward individuals with eating disorders are moderately negative. The present study examined specific forms of stigmatisation attributed to individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN). Eighty female participants recruited from an undergraduate institution completed questionnaires assessing stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination of four target individuals: a woman with AN, depression, schizophrenia and mononucleosis. AN was considered to result more from lack of social support and biological factors than poor living habits. Characteristics attributed to targets were less positive for AN than the targets with schizophrenia and mononucleosis; participants reported greater discomfort interacting with the target with AN compared to the targets with depression and mononucleosis. Having actual contact with an individual with AN related to a positive predicted outcome of and comfort in interacting with the target with AN. Findings support the existence of stigma toward individuals with AN. Future research should examine means of reducing stigma. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.
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