Eating disorders "mental health literacy": a scoping review

J Ment Health. 2020 Jun;29(3):336-349. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2020.1713996. Epub 2020 Feb 10.


Background: While it is apparent that much has been learned about "mental health literacy" (MHL) relating to certain mental health problems, such as depression, in recent years, what has been learned about MHL relating to eating disorders (ED-MHL) is unclear.Aims: A scoping review was conducted to inform the current state of knowledge in this field.Methods: A systematic search of relevant literature published between 1997 and 2017 was followed by a narrative synthesis of the findings.Results: The number of eligible studies increased from 32 in 1997-2001 to 98 in 2012-2017 (total = 264). Most studies originated from North America or Europe, recruited individuals with EDs receiving treatment or college students and included both female and male or only female participants. The majority of studies examined MHL relating to anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa and examined attitudes which facilitate recognition and appropriate help-seeking and knowledge and beliefs about professional help available.Conclusion: Interest in ED-MHL is increasing and there is now a considerable body of research addressing some aspects of ED-MHL in a range of study populations. Notable gaps in the literature exist, including a paucity of information about ED-MHL relating to EDs other than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, ED behaviour in males and the use of self-help interventions. We hope the findings will provide an incentive to further research in these and other aspects of ED-MHL.

Keywords: Eating disorders; mental health literacy; narrative synthesis; scoping review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*