USC student researches pursuit of perfection

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USC student researches pursuit of perfection


Published on 6 June 2013

The potential perils and benefits of perfectionism are being placed under the microscope as part of a research project by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Master of Psychology (Clinical) student Emily Hughes, 24, is investigating the impact that perfectionism has on health.

The study, which has surveyed more than 1,700 participants in Australia and New Zealand to date, is looking at how both sides of perfectionism affect health behaviours such as depression, anxiety, body image and eating habits.

Ms Hughes of Alexandra Headland said two factors – persistence and perseverance – were being studied to determine whether perfectionism was a positive or negative experience for individuals.

“I am looking at the influence of persistence as a characteristic in individuals experiencing perfectionism and the links it has to positive health behaviours such as lower levels of stress, depression, a healthy body image and eating patterns,” Ms Hughes said.

“I am also looking at the influence of perseverance as a perfectionism characteristic and its links to negative health behaviours around diet and body image or shape, eating disorders and self-perception.

“By identifying these characteristics and the links to negative and positive health behaviours, we hope the study will help to identify -individuals at risk of developing eating or negative health disorders and assist with early treatment.”

Ms Hughes said her research, which is being supervised by Dr Lee Kannis-Dymand and Dr Kate Mulgrew at USC, has received support from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

“We have been blown away by the volume of responses so far,” she said. “Perfectionism is clearly a characteristic which many people, including university students, can relate to.

“Our demographic is open to men and women from all backgrounds, both students and nonstudents, so it will be interesting to see the level of perfectionism in university students compared to the general population.”

Participants must be over 18 and can complete the survey at:

— Jessica Halls

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