Project Title

Applying a gendered lens to body image and eating disorders in elite and recreational sports

Project Type



Research interests of the research team offering the project

The Mental Health in Elite Sports unit conducts world-leading research and consultancy with elite and professional sports and other performance settings to support athlete and staff mental health.

Our work is focused on understanding:

  1. The prevalence and nature of mental health and wellbeing issues among individuals in high performance environments.
  2. Key risk and protective factors associated with mental health and wellbeing in performance environments.
  3. Optimal strategies to improve and maximise mental health and wellbeing in high performance environments.

Details of the project

The mental health of athletes and performers has attracted increasing attention in recent years. However, much remains to be understood regarding the role of body image and disordered eating in those who compete in sports.

We are hoping to expand work in this area, specifically by applying a gendered lens to examine risk and protective factors leading to the development of appropriate contextually relevant interventions. We foresee a PhD project aimed at examining the gendered experiences and expectations from self and others around body image in sport. This work may take the form of qualitative interviews and focus groups, as well as online cross-sectional surveys. It is anticipated that data will be collected from diverse samples including those in recreational and youth sports, as well as at the elite and professional level.

This program will make use of combined expertise from both the Mental Health in Elite Sports Unit (led by Professor Rosie Purcell) and the Gender and Social Psychiatry Research Lab (led by Associate Professor Simon Rice).

Project references

  1. Wells KR, Jeacocke NA, Appaneal R, Smith HD, Vlahovich N, Burke LM, et al. The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) position statement on disordered eating in high performance sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020:bjsports-2019-101813.
  2. Karrer Y, Halioua R, Mötteli S, Iff S, Seifritz E, Jäger M, et al. Disordered eating and eating disorders in male elite athletes: a scoping review. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 2020;6(1):e000801.
  3. Purcell R, Pilkington V, Carberry S, Reid D, Gwyther K, Hall K, et al. An evidence-informed framework to promote mental wellbeing in elite sport. Frontiers in Psychology. 2022;13.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this PhD project.

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here. Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Dr Courtney Walton