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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Psychiatry 1/2018

Prevalence of orthorexia nervosa in university students and its relationship with psychopathological aspects of eating behaviour disorders

BMC Psychiatry > Ausgabe 1/2018
María-Laura Parra-Fernández, Teresa Rodríguez-Cano, María-Dolores Onieva-Zafra, María José Perez-Haro, Víctor Casero-Alonso, Elia Fernández-Martinez, Blanca Notario-Pacheco



Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is characterized by an obsession with healthy eating, which may lead to severe physical, psychological and social disorders. It is particularly important to research this problem in populations that do not receive clinical care in order to improve early detection and treatment.


The aim of this study was to research the prevalence of ON in a population of Spanish university students and to analyze the possible associations between ON and psychological traits and behaviors that are common to ED.


A cross-sectional study with 454 students from the University of Castilla La Mancha, Spain. In total, 295 women and 159 men participated, aged between 18 and 41 years. The ORTO-11-ES questionnaire and the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI-2) were used for this study. The chi squared test was used to compare the homogeneity among the different groups.


The scores on the ORTO-11-ES suggested that 17% of students were at risk of ON. The scores on the EDI-2 for the group at risk of ON were significant, compared to the remaining individuals, regarding their drive for thinness (17.1% vs 2.1%), bulimia (2.6% vs 0%), body dissatisfaction (26.3% vs. 12.4%), perfectionism (14.5% vs 4.8%), interoceptive awareness (13.2% vs 1.3%), asceticism (15.8% vs 3.7%) and impulsiveness (9.2% vs 1.9%).

Discussion and conclusion

These findings suggest that many of the psychological and behavioral aspects of ED are shared by people who are at risk of ON. Future research should use longitudinal data, examining the temporal relationship among these variables or other underlying variables that may contribute to the concurrence of ED and ON.
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