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A weighty issue: Explaining the association between body mass index and appearance-based social anxiety

Titchener, Kristen, Wong, Quincy J.J.
Eating behaviors 2015 v.16 pp. 13-16
anxiety, body image, body mass index, eating habits, mental health, models, obesity, weight loss
Research has indicated that individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience mental health difficulties. One line of research has indicated that body mass index (BMI) is positively associated with appearance-based social anxiety, rather than social anxiety more generally. However, there is a lack of research that has attempted to explain this association. Thus, the current study recruited an undergraduate sample (N=90) and aimed (a) to replicate previous research by examining the associations between BMI, social anxiety, and appearance-based social anxiety and (b) to extend previous research by examining two potential mediators in the relationship between BMI and appearance-based social anxiety suggested in the literature (i.e., body image dissatisfaction and emotional eating). Analyses indicated that BMI was not associated with social anxiety but positively associated with appearance-based social anxiety. The association between BMI and appearance-based social anxiety was only mediated by body image dissatisfaction, and the model of these relationships emerged as the best fitting model relative to a plausible alternative model. The findings replicate and extend previous research on weight status and psychological factors and highlight the need for future longitudinal research on BMI, appearance-based social anxiety, and body image dissatisfaction so that interventions for obesity and weight loss maintenance programs can be ultimately enhanced.