Dying to be Thin: The Effects of Mortality Salience and Body-Mass Index on Restricted Eating Among Women

Document Type


Publication Date



terror management, eating behavior, body mass index

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Following terror management theory, the authors suggest women’s striving to attain a thin physique is fueled in part by existential concerns. In three studies, women restricted consumption of a nutritious but fattening food in response to reminders of mortality (mortality salience; MS). When conducted in private (Study 1), this effect was found among women but not men; when replicated in a group setting in which social comparison was likely (Studies 2 and 3), only women who were relatively less successful attaining the thin ideal (i.e., high body mass index; BMI) restricted eating after MS. In Study 3, MS caused high BMI women to perceive themselves as more discrepant from their ideal thinness; this perceived failure mediated the effects of MS and BMI on eating behavior. Findings are discussed from a self-regulatory framework, which considered in the context of pressures for women to be thin, can shed light on health risk behavior.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Personality of Social Psychology Bulletin, v. 31, issue 10, p. 1400-1412