Body Dissatisfaction and the Relevance of Religiosity: A Focus on Ultra-Orthodox Jews in a Community Study of Adult Women

Marjorie C. Feinson, Tzipi Hornik-Lurie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Body image dissatisfaction (BID) is one of the most robust risk factors associated with eating disturbances. However, much remains unknown about it especially regarding a potentially protective factor, namely religiosity. As shown in hundreds of studies, religiosity has consistently been associated with better health and mental health outcomes. Utilizing a large, community-based study of adult Jewish women, we compare ultra-Orthodox and Secular Jewish women, two groups at opposite ends of the religious observance spectrum. Detailed telephone interviews were conducted with a broadly representative sample of adult women (mean age 44) in Israel from distinct religious observance groups. Frequency of 13 BID symptoms was assessed in addition to two clinical correlates, weight and self-criticism. Separate hierarchical regressions use bootstrapping to explore predictors of BID severity within each group. Contrary to expectations, no significant differences in body dissatisfaction emerge between rigorously religious and non-religious Jewish respondents. In addition, the findings reveal surprisingly similar patterns of predictors of BID severity with self-criticism making a noteworthy contribution for both groups. However, despite strong similarities, it is premature to dismiss potentially protective aspects of religiosity vis-à-vis BID without additional studies. In the interim, clinical prevention and treatment interventions that focus on reducing self-criticism may be extremely important for addressing BID issues among adult women—regardless of degree of religious observance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-97
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Social Work Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Community sample
  • Religiosity
  • Secular women
  • Self-criticism
  • Ultra-Orthodox


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