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Research proposal on The relationship between psychological health (depression, self-esteem), weight teasing and eating disorder among overweight adolescence in Australia Essay Example

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Part 1: Project Details

  1. Project Title:

The relationship between psychological health, weight teasing and eating disorder among the overweight adolescence in Australia.

  1. Brief lay explanation

Obesity and overweight are some of the current health concerns that that are facing the current population requiring an immediate response. The magnitude of the concerns has risen due to the various negative medical and psychosocial concerns associated with overweight and obese individuals. The most affected group of individuals includes the children and the adolescence where the rate is most prevalent. As the awareness of the importance of maintaining normal levels of weight has increased, there has been a growing need to research the various factors that may influence one’s weight. One of the main contributors to overweight and obesity is unhealthy eating patterns that can also be known as eating disorder. It is, therefore, essential to investigate the manner through which various causal factors influence the eating behaviors of overweight adolescents. Such factors include weight-based teasing and psychological factors such as depression and self-esteem.

  1. Aims and objectives

The main aim of the paper is to examine the type of relationship that exists between the psychological factors, weight teasing, and the eating disorder. The investigation focuses on identifying the manner through which the factors, either psychological or weight teasing contribute to weight gain by influencing the eating behaviors. The psychological factors include depression and self-esteem.

The research questions to be addressed include:

  1. Does weight teasing influence the eating behaviors?

  2. Does lack of self-esteem contribute to an eating disorder?

  3. What is the relationship between depression the eating behaviors?

Part 2: Project Background

  1. Background

The number of obese and overweight individuals globally has increased within the last decade due to various factors. Although affecting people from all ages and genders, data from the Center for Disease and Control reveal that an estimated 95 percent of the total numbers of individuals with the eating disorder are aged between 12 and 25 years of age in the United States alone (Rosenberger et al. 2007). The issue has, therefore, become a major health concern making the efforts to curb the trend a top priority for the health department as it seeks to improve the current status of the public health. As the knowledge about the results of being overweight continues spreading, it is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of the girls enrolled in the elementary schools, normally aged between 6 years to 12 years within the United States are uncomfortable with their weight (Noordenbos, 2013). The pattern is also believed to spread even to students in the high schools where 44 percent of the female students are believed to be engaging in various weight reduction strategies.

Obesity and overweight among the children and the adolescent are caused by various contributing factors with one main causal factor is eating disorders. An eating disorder is commonly known as the intense desire to be thin or the fear to gain weight (Neumark-Sztainer et al. 2002).

A lot of young people in Australia and also globally are believed to be suffering from eating disorder. The causes of the high prevalence among the adolescence are believed to be as a result of physical difficulties and emotional challenges people face during their earlier years accompanied by pressure from the family, peer groups and even academically (Libbey et al. 2008).

Scientific research has, therefore, being directed towards identifying the causes of eating disorder that mostly affect the children and the adolescents, since they are the most affected group. The complex nature of eating disorder has contributed to a lack of an agreement between researchers on the causes of eating disorder making the inquiry and prevention quite challenging. It is believed that the causes range from a number of factors including biological, behavioral and even social factors. Biologically, eating disorder is believed by some researchers to be hereditary where transmissions are done through the genetic information across generations. Only limited amount of literature exists to support the notion (Quick, 2011).

Another social element believed to be a major contributor to the eating disorder is weight teasing, also known as bullying or fat talk. Previous research has identified that during the initial stage of their eating disorder, there was a lot of teasing from the peers regarding their weight. Such teasing may occur in various contexts where some may be either intentional, through malicious bullying, or else unintentionally taking the form of a family nickname (Neumark-Sztainer et al. 2002). During these instances, the adolescent is made to feel the shame of their weight or physical appearance contributing to them developing an eating disorder. The social element is not only popular among male adolescent but also female especially when they tend to aim their conversation about the negative impacts associated weight and appearance aimed at peers.

Some of the behavioral elements believed to be associated with eating disorders include depression and self-esteem that may be contributed by interplay of a number of factors. Such factors include pressure from the peer groups, family and academic demands (Quick, 2011).

Early diagnosis of an eating disorder is essential as it enables the application of the appropriate treatment thus improving the chances of complete recovery. A lot of the affected groups tend to conceal their conditions and realization is made when they are already at an advanced stage either due to fear of abuse or just because they are in denial (Einseberg et al, 2003). Unawareness of the signs and symptoms of the eating disorder is also known to be another contributor to the lack of early diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

The eating disorders may occur in various types with the most common types being anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder (Libbey et al. 2008). For adolescents suffering from anorexia, they take extreme measures that are targeted towards weight reduction or maintaining minimum weight. They tend to apply these extreme measures even in instances when they are already thin as they still believe that they are fat. The victims are known to hold a distorted image and perception towards, their body weight and shape despite being at an unhealthy weight. Other practices that may be adopted by adolescents suffering from anorexia include social withdrawal, excessive exercise and discarding of food (Akan & Grilo, 2995). They may also be obsessed with calculating the content of the food they consume by counting the calories and fat.

Another type of eating disorder is the bulimia nervosa where the adolescents suffering from the condition tend to engage in an uncontrollable eating behavior, also known as bingeing and tend to compensate the weight gained by indulging in excessive weight reduction measures (Benas, 2006). Such measures to compensate the weight gained include vomiting, fasting, and even excessive exercising. Detecting adolescence suffering from bulimia is quite challenging since despite consuming a huge quantity of food, there is no identifiable change in the body weight. The victims also result to other unhealthy means such as the use of laxatives, diuretics, and even cathartics. Individuals are known to be suffering from bulimia if they are bingeing or purging once in a week (Einseberg et al, 2003).

Binge eating disorder is the other type of eating disorder common among the adolescents. The patients tend to consume an unusually large amount of foods in a short period of time followed by feelings of shame and guilt (Haines et al. 2006). It differs from the bulimia in that there are no compensations for excessive eating unlike in the latter. The individuals suffering from binge eating disorder hereby tend to be overweight due to rapid and consumption of food of huge amount of food. The victims feel that they do not have control over their weight and may result in eating even when they are not hungry as a consolation. When under severe stress or when uncertain of what is expected of them, they result to eating and later feel embarrassed that they cannot control the quantity and frequency of eating. Binge eating disorder is highly associated with obesity in the long-term (Puhl & Latner, 2007).

  1. Outcomes and significance

There is a greater need to eradicate the negative effects that are brought about by the prevalence overweight and obesity in a country’s population with the aim of improving the public health. Treatment methods to be applied therefore focuses on the restoration of the normal body weight and eventually changing the behavior related to eating and carrying out regular exercise (Akan & Grilo, 1995).

Treating the patients suffering from eating disorders requires a comprehensive examination of the individuals and the family. It is, therefore, a multidisciplinary approach that requires an understanding of social, behavioral and emotional aspects of the patients and integrating them in a medical and nutritional rehabilitation program (Eisenberg et al. 2003). Understanding the relationship that exists between social, behavioral and emotional factors in influencing the prevalence of the eating disorder is, therefore, essential in gaining an understanding of the nature of the treatment to be administered (Libbey et al. 2008).

The paper aims at evaluating how weight teasing and psychological factors such as depression and lack of self-esteem influences the prevalence of eating disorders (Benas, 2006). Each of the relationships will be investigated independently to help in the identification of the subsequent treatment that can be provided. An investigation of each of the relationship will help in drawing an explanation of the reason for the increase in the number of children and adolescent in Australia and also globally suffering from eating disorder (Puhl & Latner, 2007).

Part 3: Research Plan

  1. Participants

For inclusion in the research, the study requires participants to be aged between 12 and 18 years of age since the individuals within the stated age bracket are undergoing through the adolescence stage. An estimated 100 to 200 participants, drawn from four different learning institutions in the state of Victoria will be included in the study to help give an in-depth analysis of the factors contributing to the prevalence of eating disorder in the country. The individuals are also supposed to be permanently residing in Australia as it is essential in generalizing the results to all affected adolescents in the country. An exclusion criterion is based on the body mass index (BMI) where it is supposed to be greater than 85 percent. An estimated period of thirty to forty minutes will be required to fill out the survey and carry out an assessment of the weight, height and the appearance of each participant.

  1. Recruitment

The recruitment of participants will be carried out in an isolated zone designated in the schools from where the students will be assessed. The survey is to be carried through the use of interviews executed face to face by trained professionals.

The research applies stratified sampling method since each member of the population has a known zero probability. The application of the sampling method is essential as it helps in the reduction of the sampling error. The population is split into strata, where members of a stratum share some specific characteristics that may influence the variable being measured, which is eating disorder. Such factors used in splitting individuals into strata include exposure to factors that may affect the psychological health factors such as depression and self-esteem and weight teasing and non-exposure to these factors. These stratum acts as actual representatives of the total population. After the individuals are grouped into strata depending on similar characters, the random sampling is applied to select a given number of individuals from each stratum. The number should be sufficient to act as a representative of the total population.

The participation into the research will be voluntarily and the subjects for research will be informed of their involvement in research but the goal of the research will be concealed to minimize bias. Revealing the purpose of the research may lead the subjects to answer the questions with the goal of manipulating the end results. Written consent is also to be obtained from the subjects as it not only approves the use of their data but also specifies the conditions that have to be followed in the use of the obtained information. Such conditions include maintaining the privacy but failing to reveal the origin of the data from the users.

  1. Data collection

Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected from the research that will be crucial in determining the nature of the relationship between these crucial aspects. The method of data collection to be employed in the research paper include carrying out of interviews and filling out of questionnaires. Interview although time-consuming, will play a key role in the classification of participants into the various categories by facilitating measurement to fill data on appearance, and weight. The method of data collection is also more appropriate as it provides a platform for follow-up questions where necessary. The interviews will also be crucial to gauge such crucial aspects as the level of self-esteem of the participants that cannot be identified without face to face contact.

Qualitative data is crucial in identifying the nature and the various types of relationships by failing to restrict the participants on the types of answers they are expected to provide. The collection of quantitative data helps in measuring the prevalence of the identified relationships. The nature of the research makes it challenging to apply other types of data collection method such as email survey and focus group.

  1. Materials

Various materials were employed to help in conducting the research by enabling the measurement of the various variables. Variables to be measured include the body mass index, weight-teasing and psychological factors such as depression and self-esteem. The weight of the participants will be measured by the use of a standardized digital scale model 830 KL of the Health-O-Meter. The results of the measurement will be measured to the nearest 0.1 Kg for convenience and easier interpretation of the readings. The height of the participants will also be assessed by the use of stadiometer and the results will be recorded in centimeters. Various precautionary measures will be applied to minimize error by requiring participants to remove their shoes while taking the measurement. The weight and height will then be applied to calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI).

The self-esteem is to be measured using the 6 items from the Rosenberg self-esteem Scale with the use of 5 points Likert scale (Noordenbos, 2013). The scale provide the use of close-ended questions such as, «How comfortable are you with your body weight and appearance?» Depression is to be measured by the use of a scale of depressive mood where depressive symptoms are to be used in making close and open-ended questions.

Close ended questions are also to be applied in testing whether the participants have previously endured weight teasing from peers and family directly or indirectly by use of nicknames. Such an example of a close-ended question is, «Have you previously been teased or made fun of due to your weight or appearance?»

  1. Analysis

The two set of data to be collected from the survey will be analyzed differently. Qualitative data help in understanding the nature of the relationship whereas quantitative data will guide in the understanding of the demographic factors and the prevalence of this relationship. The SAS statistical software version8.12 is to be employed in the analysis of these set of data.

  1. Ethical Consideration

The issue of an eating disorder is critical thus the research need to be executed carefully to minimize the negative effect associated with the health issue. Since the study focuses on an adolescent who is mainly at schools, permission is to be obtained from the respective research bodies of the schools that participated in the study. Parents of the adolescents are also needed to approve the participations of their children for them to be included in the study.

The participants will be fully informed of the requirements and nature of the research so they can make an informed decision on whether to participate or not. Participation is voluntary ensuring that the subjects are only the one willing to do so. Privacy is also maintained by failing to reveal the identities of the participants in the research. Where relevant, a pseudonym will be provided as it is different from the real identity of the participants.

Since the questions to be used in survey interview to be carried may be upsetting, counseling services will be availed to the participants to control such emotions. These counseling services will be provided free of charge and the cost will be charged on the researcher thus making the services available to all participants despite financial challenges.


Akan, G.E. and Grilo, C.M., 1995. Sociocultural influences on eating attitudes and behaviors, body image, and psychological functioning: A comparison of African‐American, Asian‐American, and Caucasian college women. International Journal of Eating Disorders18(2), pp.181-187.

Benas, J. S. (2006). Weight-related teasing, dysfuctional cognitions, and symptoms of depression and eating disturbances

Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark-Sztainer, D. and Story, M., 2003. Associations of weight-based teasing and emotional well-being among adolescents. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine157(8), pp.733-738.

Haines, J., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Eisenberg, M.E. and Hannan, P.J., 2006. Weight teasing and disordered eating behaviors in adolescents: longitudinal findings from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens). Pediatrics117(2), pp.e209-e215.

Libbey, H.P., Story, M.T., Neumark‐Sztainer, D.R. and Boutelle, K.N., 2008. Teasing, disordered eating behaviors, and psychological morbidities among overweight adolescents. Obesity16(S2), pp.S24-S29.

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Falkner, N., Story, M., Perry, C., Hannan, P.J. and Mulert, S., 2002. Weight-teasing among adolescents: correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors. International journal of obesity26(1), p.123.

NOORDENBOS, G. (2013). Recovery from eating disorders: a guide for clinicians and their clients.

Puhl, R.M. and Latner, J.D., 2007. Stigma, obesity, and the health of the nation’s children. Psychological bulletin133(4), p.557.

QUICK, V. M. (2011). Characteristics and disturbed/disordered eating behaviors of young adults with and without diet-related chronic health conditions.  (Quick, 2011)

Rosenberger, P.H., Henderson, K.E., Bell, R.L. and Grilo, C.M., 2007. Associations of weight-based teasing history and current eating disorder features and psychological functioning in bariatric surgery patients. Obesity surgery17(4), p.470.