Disordered eating in female Indian students during the Covid-19 pandemic: The potential role of family

Apoorva Amirapu, Mirjam Brady-Van den Bos* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Within a paternalistic culture where weight is socially important and parental pressures are strong, 10 female Indian university students across various countries faced particular problems when living with their parents during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Objective
The current interview study examines why cultural and familial factors during the Covid-19 lockdown had such an impact on female Indian university students' food and exercise behaviors and self-view.

Method
Semi-structured, online (Microsoft Teams) interviews were conducted with 10 female Indian university students aged 20–23, who had moved back in with their parents during lockdown. The recorded and transcribed interviews were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis with a contextualist orientation.

Results
Five themes were generated. Set within a context where eating and exercise habits are regulated by cultural and familial factors (Theme 1), lockdown living situations amplified these factors (Theme 2), severely impacting students' cognitions and affect (Theme 3), and relationships with their parents (Theme 4) even after lockdown was over. Participants' experiences led to greater awareness and motivation to confront their issues regarding body image and mental health (Theme 5).

Conclusions
These findings have practical implications for counseling and eating disorder (ED) therapy in universities: Improved understanding of cultural and familial factors that affect female Indian students likely leads to better support. Our findings also emphasizes the need for research into the role of family and the impacts of family dynamics in the development of disordered eating habits.

Public Significance
In Indian culture, eating and exercise habits tend to be regulated by cultural and familial factors. When female university students moved back in with their parents during the Covid-19 lockdowns, their living situation amplified these factors, severely impacting students' thoughts and feelings about their body, and relationships with their parents even after lockdown was over. The study has strong practical implications for university counseling settings and adds to research on the role of culture in how ED develops.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume56
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Covid-19
  • disordered eating habits
  • eating disorders
  • female Indian students
  • Indian culture
  • Indian families
  • lockdown eating habits

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