Social Comparison and Disordered Eating Behavior in University Students: Mediating Role of Body Image Dissatisfaction


  • Saba Riaz Lecturer (Psychology), Department of Allied Health Sciences, Iqra University, Chak Shahzad Campus, Islamabad, Pakistan.
  • Raheela Nazeer BS (Hons) Scholar (Clinical Psychology), Institute of Health Sciences, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering & Information Technology (KFUEIT), Rahimyarkhan, Pakistan.
  • Aqsa Muzaffar BS (Hons) Scholar (Clinical Psychology), Institute of Health Sciences, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering & Information Technology (KFUEIT), Rahimyarkhan, Pakistan.



Body Image Dissatisfaction, Disordered Eating Behaviors, Social Comparison, University Students


Disordered eating behaviors are more prevalent than eating disorders. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the link between social comparison, dissatisfaction with one’s body image and disordered eating, and whether body image dissatisfaction explains the mechanisms relating social comparison and disordered eating behavior.  A quantitative cross-sectional research design was implemented to enlist 200 university students (80 males and 120 females) aged between 18 to 26 years, using a non-probability convenient sampling technique. Standardized assessment tools such as Iowa-Netherlands Comparison Orientation Scale, Body Shape Questionnaire-16B, and Eating Attitude Test were administered to collect data from study sample. SPSS ver.26 and Hayes Macro Process ver.4 were utilized to statistically analyze the collected data. Results revealed that social comparison are significantly positively correlated to body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors. Similarly, body image dissatisfaction significantly mediated the link between social comparison and disordered eating behaviors. Findings suggests an increased understanding of social factors affecting an individual’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors related to body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating behavior.


Ahadzadeh A.S., Rafik-Galea S., Alavi M., Amini M. (2018). Relationship between body mass index, body image, and fear of negative evaluation: Moderating role of self-esteem. Health Psychology Open. doi: 10.1177/2055102918774251

Andersen, N., & Swami, V. (2021). Science mapping research on body image: a bibliometric review of publications in body image, 2004–2020. Body Image, 38, 106–119. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.03.015

Barrack, M. T., West, J., Christopher, M., & Pham-Vera, A. M. (2019). Disordered eating among a diverse sample of first-year college students. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 38(2), 141-148.

Chen, X., Luo, Y. J., & Chen, H. (2020). Body image victimization experiences and disordered eating behaviors among Chinese female adolescents: the role of body dissatisfaction and depression. Sex Roles, 83(7), 442-452.

Evans, C., & Dolan, B. (1993). Body Shape Questionnaire: derivation of shortened “alternate forms”. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 13(3), 315-321.

Fatima, S., Noor, R., Khan, I., Bashir, M. S., & Fatima, M. (2018). Level of anxiety and disordered eating behavior among young female athletes. Rawal Medical Journal, 43(1), 45-47.

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140.

Fitzsimmons-Craft, E. E. (2011). Social psychological theories of disordered eating in college women: Review and integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1224-1237.

Garner, D. M., Olmsted, M. P., Bohr, Y., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1982). The eating attitudes test: psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12(4), 871-878.

Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(1), 129.

Goldfield G.S., Moore C., Henderson K., Buchholz A., Obeid N., Flament M.F. (2010). Body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint, depression, and weight status in adolescents. Journal of School Health, 80, 186–192. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2009.00485.x.

Green, M. A., Scott, N. A., Cross, S. E., Liao, K. Y., Hallengren, J. J., Davids, C. M., Carter, L. P., Kugler, D. W., Read, K. E., & Jepson, A. J. (2009). Eating disorder behaviors and depression: a minimal relationship beyond social comparison, self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 65(9):989-99. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20586.

Halliwell, E. (2012). Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance. Elsevier; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Social Comparison Theory and Body Image; pp. 751–757.

Hildebrandt, T., Loeb, K., Troupe, S., & Delinsky, S. (2012). Adjunctive mirror exposure for eating disorders: A randomized controlled pilot study. Behavior Research and Therapy, 50(12), 797-804.

Hill, M. L., Masuda, A., & Latzman, R. D. (2013). Body image flexibility as a protective factor against disordered eating behavior for women with lower body mass index. Eating Behaviors, 14(3), 336-341.

Ho, S. S., Lee, E. W., & Liao, Y. (2016). Social network sites, friends, and celebrities: The roles of social comparison and celebrity involvement in adolescents’ body image dissatisfaction. Social media+ Society, 2(3). DOI: 2056305116664216.

Ihsan, A., Khan, R. M., & Muhammad, K. (2023). Mediating Role of Psychological Distress between Body Image Concerns and Sexual Functioning in Primiparous Women. Journal of Professional & Applied Psychology, 4(3), 342-351.

Jarman, H. K., Marques, M. D., McLean, S. A., Slater, A., & Paxton, S. J. (2021). Social media, body satisfaction and well-being among adolescents: A mediation model of appearance-ideal internalization and comparison. Body Image, 36, 139-148.

Jin, L., Han, W., & Zheng, Z. (2023). Attentional vigilance of food information in disordered eating behaviors. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1108995.

Khraisat, B. R., Al-Jeady, A. M., Alqatawneh, D. A., Toubasi, A. A., & AlRyalat, S. A. (2022). The prevalence of mental health outcomes among eating disorder patients during the COVID-19 pandemic: A meta-analysis. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 48, 141-147.

Liao, Y., Knoesen, N. P., Castle, D. J., Tang, J., Deng, Y., Bookun, R., Chen, X., Hao, W., Meng, G., & Liu, T. (2010). Symptoms of disordered eating, body shape, and mood concerns in male and female Chinese medical students. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 51(5), 516–523.

Liu, Q., Sun, J., Li, Q., & Zhou Z. (2020). Body dissatisfaction and smartphone addiction among Chinese adolescents: A moderated mediation model. Children and Youth Services Review. 108, 104613. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104613.

Mohapatra, D., Pemde, H. K., & Kataria, D. (2024). Disordered eating behaviors, body dissatisfaction and their determinants in Indian adolescents: A cross-sectional observational study. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 66(2), 165-170. doi: 10.4103/indianjpsychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_717_23.

Muazzam, A., & Khalid, R. (2008). Disordered eating behaviors: an overview of Asian cultures. Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society, 5(2), 76-80.

Muñoz-Rodríguez, J. R., Luna-Castro, J., Ballesteros-Yáñez, I., Pérez-Ortiz, J. M., Gómez-Romero, F. J., Redondo-Calvo, F. J., Alguacil, L. F., & Castillo, C. A. (2021). Influence of biomedical education on health and eating habits of university students in Spain. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 86, 111181.

Myers, T.A., & Crowther, J.H. (2009). Social comparison as a predictor of body dissatisfaction: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118, 683–698. doi: 10.1037/a0016763

Myers, T.A., Ridolfi, D.R., Crowther, J.H., & Ciesla, J.A. (2012). The Impact of Appearance-Focused Social Comparisons on Body Image Disturbance in the Naturalistic Environment: The Roles of Thin-Ideal Internalization and Feminist Beliefs. Body Image. 9, 342–351. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.03.005

Nagata, J.M., Garber, A.K., Tabler, J.L., Murray, S.B., & Bibbins-Domingo, K. (2018). Prevalence and Correlates of Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Young Adults with Overweight or Obesity. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33,1337–1343. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4465-z

Paterna, A., Alcaraz?Ibáñez, M., Fuller?Tyszkiewicz, M., & Sicilia, Á. (2021). Internalization of body shape ideals and body dissatisfaction: A systematic review and meta?analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(9), 1575-1600.

Pinto, V. R. A., Melo, L. F., & Bressan, J. (2019). Prediction of body image dissatisfaction in university students by multivariate statistical methods. Acta Scientiarum. Health Sciences, 41, 44186.

Ricciardelli, L. A., & Yager, Z. (2016). Adolescence and body image: From development to preventing dissatisfaction. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Rodgers, R., Chabrol, H., & Paxton, S. J. (2011). An exploration of the tripartite influence model of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among Australian and French college women. Body Image, 8(3), 208-215.

Suls, J. (2003). Contributions of Social Comparison to Physical Illness and Well?Being. In J. Suls, & K. A. Wallston (Eds.), Social Psychological Foundations of Health and Illness (pp. 226-255). Wiley.

Thompson, J. K., Coovert, M. D., & Stormer, S. M. (1999). Body image, social comparison, and eating disturbance: A covariance structure modeling investigation. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26(1), 43-51.

Tokatly Latzer, I., Lerner-Geva, L., Stein, D., Weiss, B., & Pinhas-Hamiel, O. (2020). Disordered eating behaviors in adolescents with celiac disease. Eating and weight disorders: EWD, 25(2), 365–371.

Uri, R. C., Wu, Y. K., Baker, J. H., & Munn-Chernoff, M. A. (2021). Eating disorder symptoms in Asian American college students. Eating Behaviors, 40, 101458.

Van Vonderen, K. E., & Kinnally, W. (2012). Media effects on body image: Examining media exposure in the broader context of internal and other social factors. American Communication Journal, 14(2), 41-57.

Wang, Y., Fardouly, J., Vartanian, L. R., & Lei, L. (2019). Selfie-viewing and facial dissatisfaction among Chinese adolescents: A moderated mediation model of general attractiveness internalization and body appreciation. Body Image, 30, 35-43.

Wendell, J. W., Masuda, A., & Le, J. K. (2012). The role of body image flexibility in the relationship between disordered eating cognitions and disordered eating symptoms among non-clinical college students. Eating Behaviors. 13(3), 240-245.

Yao, S., Zhang, R., Thornton, L.M., Peat, C.M., Qi, B., Du, S., Wang, H., Zhang, B., & Bulik, C.M. (2021). Screen-detected disordered eating and related traits in a large population sample of females in mainland China: China Health and Nutrition Survey. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54, 24–35. doi: 10.1002/eat.23409

Zaman, R., Hankir, A., & Jemni, M. (2019). Lifestyle factors and mental health. Psychiatria Danubina, 31(suppl 3), 217-220.




How to Cite

Riaz, S. ., Nazeer, R. ., & Muzaffar, A. . (2024). Social Comparison and Disordered Eating Behavior in University Students: Mediating Role of Body Image Dissatisfaction. Journal of Professional & Applied Psychology, 5(2), 295–303.