Individuals with intellectual disabilities are largely marginalized within society and are understudied as a group (Reel & Bucciere, 2011). Although there have been numerous body image studies with able-bodied athletes, this study represents the first attempt to explore body image of male and female Special Olympics athletes. Athletes (N = 103) were 18–61 years of age (M = 33.34; SD = 11.20) and represented mild to moderate severity for diagnosable intellectual disabilities. Height and weight were measured to determine body mass index (BMI). Body image was verbally assessed via individual interviews using the Figure Ratings Scale and open-ended items. Female athletes had a significantly higher BMI (M = 33.02, SD = 9.28) than male athletes (M = 28.24, SD = 7.38). The BMI means for the female and male athletes met the classifications for obese and overweight, respectively. There was also a negative relationship between body satisfaction and BMI in the overall sample (r = -.46), male athletes only (r = -.51), and female athletes only (r = -.38, indicating that higher BMI was associated with lower body satisfaction. Descriptive statistics revealed that 51% of female athletes and 37% of male athletes desired a thinner physique, whereas 20% of female athletes and 29.6% of male athletes wanted to be larger. There were no significant gender differences in levels of overall body dissatisfaction in this study.
Justine Reel and Robert Bucciere are with the Department of Health Promotion and Education at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. Sonya SooHoo is in private practice.