Date of Conferral





Public Health


Amany Refaat


Eating disorders (EDs) cause irreversible physical damage, including organ failure and death. Although EDs receive considerable attention, the number of affected young women who seek help remains low. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the sociocultural and socioenvironmental factors influencing ED development from the perspective of young women, and to explore why the rate of EDs continues to rise in this population. The sociocultural model served as a guide for the study. Ten young women 18-24 years old from Southwest Ohio participated in in-depth, semi structured, face-to-face interviews. Data coding and analysis revealed recurring themes, with findings indicating that family relationships and social media were major factors influencing young women's perceptions of personal image and attractiveness. Participants described that social media's negative portrayal of beauty leads to internalization of the thin-ideal, leading to body dissatisfaction, with subsequent negative dieting behaviors that increase the risk for eating disorder development. Family relationships were described as the main source of positive support to neutralize these external negative forces by creating environments where these young women are accepted. A combination of media, availability of fast food, and society's portrayal of beauty, had significant influences on ED development by creating "constant internal struggles" on body image, good food choices and acceptance in society. The study impacts social change by adding new information for public health program developers and policy makers that may be used to introduce ED programs in local schools that will empower these young women to seek help without fear of stigma or alienation.