New Staff Profile: introducing Scott Griffiths

Tell me a little bit about your academic background

My academic career has been transient. I was awarded my PhD from the University of Sydney in mid-2016, but I lived in Brisbane and worked at the University of Queensland throughout 2015. At the start of 2016 I moved down to Canberra and worked at the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. I also worked briefly for the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, and headspace. Now in 2017 I've moved to the University of Melbourne! It's been a hoot, but I'm looking forward to staying in Melbourne for a while. Plus, my tax return will be a lot less complicated (small victories).

What is your main area of research interest?

My research interests include body image disorders, substance use, gender roles, and stigmatisation. I'm particularly interested in the muscularity- and male-focused versions of these phenomena, including muscle dysmorphia, anabolic steroid use, and the relationship of masculinity with these. It might surprise people to learn that anabolic steroids – not meth or heroin or ice – has been the most commonly reported last-injected drug among new injection drug users for the past 5 years.

You've recently commenced a highly prized NHMRC Early Career fellowship. What will you be doing during this fellowship and who will you working with here at the University and elsewhere?

First and foremost, I'm establishing a set of four parallel longitudinal studies that will run for the duration of the fellowship, including studies of secondary school adolescents, individuals with clinical eating disorders, anabolic steroid users, and undergraduates here at the University. I'm also establishing studies that use exciting new(ish) technologies, including geospatial networking smart phone apps and ecological momentary assessment apps, to better understand the mental health correlates of anabolic steroid use.

Do you have a recent paper that you are especially proud of? Tell us what you did, what you found and why it matters.

In terms of impact, I'd have to choose a paper my team and I published in 2015 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. To our knowledge, this is the only study to quantitatively explore the prevalence and consequences of stigmatisation among people with eating disorders.

We led an international effort that recruited some 300 individuals with various eating disorders from 14 countries around the world. Two stigmatising attitudes were revealed as both highly prevalent and damaging, namely, the attitudes that i) sufferers should just pull themselves together, and that ii) sufferers are personally responsible for their condition. In addition, the study demonstrated that the primary sex difference in eating disorders stigma was masculinity, namely, that men with eating disorders were more stigmatised as 'less of a man' than women were stigmatised as 'less of a woman'. Further, experiencing an increased frequency of stigmatisation was associated with more severe symptoms, a longer duration of illness, and more negative attitudes about seeking mental health treatment.

The findings were important because they gave concrete targets for eating disorder charities and organisations to focus their destigmatisation campaigns on, including campaigns conducted by the Butterfly Foundation, Australia's only government-funded eating disorders charity.

Contact Dr Scott Griffiths