Prevention of eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Psychol Rev. 2017 Apr:53:46-58. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2017.02.001. Epub 2017 Feb 12.


Objective: To systematically review and quantify the effectiveness of Eating Disorder (ED) prevention interventions.

Methods: Electronic databases (including the Cochrane Controlled Trial Register, MEDLINE, PsychInfo, EMBASE, and Scopus) were searched for published randomized controlled trials of ED prevention interventions from 2009 to 2015. Trials prior to 2009 were retrieved from prior reviews.

Results: One hundred and twelve articles were included. Fifty-eight percent of trials had high risk of bias. Findings indicated small to moderate effect sizes on reduction of ED risk factors or symptoms which occurred up to three-year post-intervention. For universal prevention, media literacy (ML) interventions significantly reduced shape and weight concerns for both females (-0.69, confidence interval (CI): -1.17 to -0.22) and males (-0.32, 95% CI -0.57 to -0.07). For selective prevention, cognitive dissonance (CD) interventions were superior to control interventions in reducing ED symptoms (-0.32, 95% CI -0.52 to -0.13). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions had the largest effect size (-0.40, 95% CI -0.55 to -0.26) on dieting outcome at 9-month follow-up while the healthy weight intervention reduced ED risk factors and body mass index. No indicated prevention interventions were found to be effective in reducing ED risk factors.

Conclusions: There are a number of promising preventive interventions for ED risk factors including CD, CBT and ML. Whether these actually lower ED incidence is, however, uncertain. Combined ED and obesity prevention interventions require further research.

Keywords: Eating disorders; Meta-analysis; Preventive interventions; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*