Exploring the mental health of circus artists: Circus factors, psychological resilience, and demographics predict disordered eating and exercise addictions

Fleur E.C.A. van Rens, Alexandra P. Metse, Brody Heritage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

There are similarities in the performance demands of circus and other performance domains such as leanness sports and dance, yet little is known about the mental health of circus artists. We explored self-reported disordered eating and exercise addictions in a sample of 500 circus artists. The sample consisted of aerial acrobats (71%), floor acrobats (13%), object manipulators (9%), and equilibrists (6%) who participate in circus at a range of performance levels (amateur 50%, part/full-time professional 41%, student 6%, retired 3%). Similar to elite athletes in leanness sports, approximately 36% of the circus artists in our sample were classified as ‘at risk’ of an eating disorder. A binomial logistic regression model suggested that being ‘at risk’ of an eating disorder was negatively related to participants’ age and trait resilience, positively related to exercise addictions, and differences among circus categories were found (i.e., higher among equilibrium and aerial acrobatics). Using a Bayesian estimation procedure, a linear regression model suggested that exercise addiction scores were positively related to participants’ weekly training time and being ‘at risk’ for an eating disorder, negatively associated with their years of experience in circus, and differences between circus categories (high levels in equilibrium) and modality of engagement in circus (higher levels among amateurs) were identified. Consequently, these exploratory study findings indicate that a complex interaction of factors might impact the development of disordered eating and exercise addictions among circus artists. Implications for discipline-specific and experience-specific interventions to address these maladaptive behaviours are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102107
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Volume59
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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