Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Abnormal eating attitudes in London schoolgirls — a prospective epidemiological study: outcome at twelve month follow-up

G. C. Pattona1 c1, E. Johnson-Sabinea1, K. Wooda1, A. H. Manna1 and A. Wakelinga1

a1 Academic Department of Psychiatry, Royal Free Hospital, London


The occurrence and course of eating disorder in a large representative population of 15-year-old London schoolgirls has been assessed using a two-stage survey methodology. Attempts to control weight were common and often transient. Dieting was in the great majority of girls found to be a benign practice without progression to more extreme concerns about food and weight. However, a small proportion of dieters did become cases and formed the majority of new cases found at follow-up. The relative risk of dieters becoming cases was eight times that of non-dieters. Many factors conventionally associated with eating disorder were associated more with attempting weight control than caseness. These included pre-morbid personality, pre-morbid obesity and family weight pathology. Other factors, including social class, career choice and psychosexual development, had no association either with attempting weight control or caseness.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr G. C. Patton, Academic Department of Psychiatry, Royal Free Hospital, Pond St., London NW3 2QG.