Original Paper

Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 954-976

First online:

My Body is a Temple: Eating Disturbances, Religious Involvement, and Mental Health Among Young Adult Women

  • Andrea K. HendersonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of South Carolina Email author 
  • , Christopher G. EllisonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Texas at San Antonio

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A growing body of the literature outlines the undesirable mental health consequences of eating disturbances. However, little attention has been given to the possible mitigating effects of cultural institutions, such as religion, in the lives of women suffering from such pathologies. Our work contributes to the literature by (a) outlining a series of arguments linking eating disturbances, religion, and mental health; (b) specifying two conceptual models of these relationships; and (c) testing relevant hypotheses using data on a large nationwide sample of young women. Results indicate that religious involvement—organizational, non-organizational, and subjective religiousness—moderates the effects of eating disturbances on mental health, particularly for self-esteem. Study limitations are identified and several promising directions for future research are discussed.


Religion Mental health Gender Eating disturbances Health Body image