Psychological Medicine



REVIEW ARTICLE

Prevention research in eating disorders: theory and new directions


S. BRYN AUSTIN a1c1
a1 Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

Abstract

Background. Over the past two decades, scores of articles and several books have been published calling for more attention to the prevention of eating disorders, but less than two dozen prevention intervention studies have been conducted to date.

Methods. This paper reports the results of a systematic review of 20 empirical intervention studies on eating disorders prevention, discussing the data accumulated on what has and has not been effective. Beyond a description of study design and findings, this paper devotes special attention to the theoretical orientations of the studies and their implied assumptions about preventive strategies.

Results. Though there has been a compelling interest in social, political and economic factors influencing the incidence of disordered eating, little of this interest has been carried over into the prevention end of eating disorders research. Most studies reported thus far have been designed to target and measure change principally on the individual level, to the exclusion of considering leverage points for intervention in the larger social environment.

Conclusions. This paper concludes with a recommendation for new attention to a model of proactive primary prevention targeted at environmental change and cross-disciplinary collaboration to achieve a reduction in the incidence of eating disorders.


Correspondence:
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr S. Bryn Austin, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, JB-335, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


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