Primary prevention of eating disorders: might it do more harm than good?

Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Sep;22(2):167-72. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199709)22:2<167::aid-eat8>;2-d.


Objective: The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate a new school-based eating disorder prevention program designed to reduce dietary restraint.

Method: Forty-six school-girls, aged 13-14 years, took part. The intervention consisted of eight weekly sessions of 45 min duration. A battery of self-report questionnaires was administered before and after the intervention and 6 months later.

Results: Unlike previous prevention studies, there was not only an increase in knowledge at postintervention but there was also a decrease in target behavior and attitudes. However, these effects were short-lived since they had disappeared 6 months later: indeed, at 6-month follow-up there was an increase in dietary restraint compared with baseline.

Discussion: These findings suggest that the intervention had been counterproductive since it led to an increase in dietary restraint. They imply that school-based prevention programs may do more harm than good.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Education / organization & administration*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Primary Prevention / organization & administration*
  • Program Evaluation
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires