The dual continua model of mental health suggests that mental well-being and mental illness are two distinct continua that are interrelated in their contributions to overall mental health. This study investigated the dual continua model in individuals with eating disorder symptoms.
Female university students (N = 346) completed measures of mental well-being, eating disorder symptomatology, clinical impairment and psychological distress. Confirmatory factor and latent profile analyses were used to derive underlying mental health profiles.
Results revealed two oblique factors representing the mental well-being and eating disorder symptomatology constructs and four unique mental health profiles that were partially consistent with the dual continua model emerged: ‘flourishing’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘partially symptomatic and content’, and ‘languishing’. The derived mental health profiles had unique characteristics described by psychological distress and clinical impairment.
The results did not provide conclusive evidence for the dual continua model as they could also be interpreted in a manner consistent with the unidimensional approach. While the dual continua model is a promising avenue to understand mental health in a way that looks beyond symptoms, these results caution against its rapid adoption and encourage future research to understand how eating disorder symptomatology and positive mental health assets contribute to overall mental health.