Issue 28 | Prevention for Young People

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NEDC e-Bulletin

Issue 28

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Welcome to the twenty-eighth edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin. In this edition of the e-Bulletin we're highlighting some core information around eating disorders, young people and prevention.

If you are interested in getting more involved in the NEDC we encourage you to join the collaboration and become an NEDC member.


1. Feature Article: Young People, Eating Disorders & Prevention

2. Knowledge Hub Roundup: Youth Based Prevention Programs

3. Professional Development Update 2015

4. Resource Highlight


Feature article

teenage girls

Young People, Eating Disorders & Prevention

Research has shown that young people are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders – 75% of cases of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, and 50% of Binge Eating Disorder and OSFED cases develop prior to the age of 22 years (Bailey et al., 2014).

Adolescence and young adulthood are a time of significant biological, psychological and social change and young people are often vulnerable to major risk factors such as body perception or dissatisfaction and low self-esteem.

A 2014 study on risk factors of purging in female adolescents identified several variables that increased the risk of purging; these included higher BMI, suicide attempts, overweight self-perception, parental poverty, depression, impulsivity and low self-esteem (Stephen et al 2014).

Another recent Australian study showed that in a group of 1,400 Western Australian adolescents, 63% of girls wanted to be thinner (6% wanted to be bigger) and 38% of boys wanted to be thinner, while 21% wanted to be bigger. Body image dissatisfaction was highly associated with physical appearance for both genders, with boys relating dissatisfaction to low athletic competence and girls relating dissatisfaction to low (global) self-worth, athletic competence and close friendship domains (Chin-A-Loy et al., 2014).

And these are not brief, point-in-time concerns. Longitudinal research into the attitudes of adolescents towards their own bodies shows that body dissatisfaction either sustained or increased over time, with both males and females becoming progressively more dissatisfied with their body image as they move throughout adolescence and into young adulthood (Bucchianeri et al., 2013).

The development of an eating disorder is a complex, multi-factorial process incorporating biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. Issues related to body satisfaction, disordered eating, low self-esteem and environmental exposure to pressures are the most modifiable risk factors and effective universal and targeted prevention strategies for young people needs to address these issues; to reduce risk factors, enhance protective factors and ultimately decrease the rate and impact of eating disorders in our society.

Prevention strategies focus on psychoeducation, cognitive dissonance and cognitive-behavioural therapeutic approaches, often incorporating media literacy, self expression and positive peer engagement.

Research shows that current programs generally result in an increased knowledge and awareness of public presentations of beauty, body image and eating disorders, but do not necessarily effectively decrease risk factors or change personal attitudes or eating pathology (Bailey et al., 2014). Prevention and intervention strategies continue to undergo further development, research and evaluation to effectively motivate behavioural and attitudinal change in young people.


Bailey, A. P., Parker, A. G., Colautti, L. A., Hart, L.M., Liu, P. & Hetrick, S.E. Mapping the evidence for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in young people (2014). Journal of Eating Disorders 2014, 2:5.

Bucchianeri, M. M., Arikian, A. J., Hannan, P. J., Eisenberg, M. E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. Body dissatisfaction from adolescence to young adulthood: Findings from a 10-year longitudinal study (2013). Body Image. 2013 Jan;10(1):1-7.

Chin-A-Loy, K., Robinson, M., Allen, K., Jacoby, P. & McLean, N. Self-concept and body image dissatisfaction in West Australian adolescent boys and girls (2014). Proceedings of the 2014 Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) Conference: Driven Bodies Driven Brains. Journal of Eating Disorders 2014, 2(Suppl 1):O58.

Stephen, E., Rose, J., Kenney, L., Rosselli-Navarra, F., & Weissman, R. Adolescent risk factors for purging in young women: findings from the national longitudinal study of adolescent health (2014). Journal of Eating Disorders 2014, 2:1.

If you are an NEDC member you can also find further reading on prevention programs in the NEDC Prevention and Early Intervention Report, available here.

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Knowledge Hub Roundup

male teen in beanie

Youth Based Prevention Programs

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration collects and provides the latest evidence based research and information available on eating disorders from Australia and around the world. The topics included in our Research & Resources section are wide ranging and recognise the physical, social and emotional aspects and the broad spectrum of eating disorders. This month in the e-Bulletin we are highlighting research on youth based prevention programs.

What works in secondary schools? A systematic review of classroom-based body image programs.
About: Governments, schools, and curriculum authorities are increasingly recognizing that body image during adolescence is a public health issue that warrants attention in the school setting. After 30 years of eating disorder prevention research, and given the current interest in this area, it seemed timely to review the research on interventions to improve body image in schools.
More info

Healthy weight regulation and eating disorder prevention in high school students: a universal and targeted Web-based intervention.
About: This study describes an online program, StayingFit, which has two tracks for universal and targeted delivery and was designed to enhance healthy living skills, encourage healthy weight regulation, and improve weight/shape concerns among high school adolescents. Results suggest that an Internet-based, universally delivered, targeted intervention may support healthy weight regulation, improve weight/shape concerns among participants with eating disorders risk, and increase physical activity in high school students. Tailored content and interactive features to encourage behavior change may lead to sustainable improvements in adolescent health.
More info

Prevention programme for eating disturbances in adolescents. Is their effect on body image maintained at 30 months later?
About: This study assessed changes in the body image of Spanish adolescents who participated in a programme aimed at preventing disordered eating, with a 30-month follow-up. The study found that there is a need for prevention programmes addressing eating and body image disturbances that involve both boys and girls.
More info

Implementation and dissemination of an internet-based program for prevention and early intervention in eating disorders
About: The ProYouth program consists of several modules that can be flexibly combined by users depending on their individual needs for support. The uptake and utilization of the online intervention, user characteristics, as well as the estimated amount of required resources to maintain the program are analyzed.
More info

More research on health promotion and prevention can be found in the Research & Resources section.

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Professional Development Update 2015

female therapist

There are a number of upcoming professional development events and opportunities in the eating disorders space in 2015.

If you are running any professional development workshops or events, please let us know so that we can list your event. We can be contacted at (Note: as the NEDC is not a support organisation, we do not promote support or counselling groups.)

NEDC Eating Disorders Forums

In 2015 NEDC will be continuing their series of free information and professional development forums to be held in regional centres across Australia.

Targeted at those providing services to people with or at risk of eating disorders including GPs, psychologists, nurses, dieticians, teachers, school counsellors and sport and fitness professionals attendees can expect to engage with evidence based knowledge and practice and professional networking and support. This is also an excellent opportunity to discuss and workshop the unique service and workforce needs of your local community. The program for each forum will be adapted to meet the needs of the local community.

In February we will be visiting regional NSW running events on the NSW mid to north with events in other states to be announced soon.

Visit the NEDC event calendar for more details.

ANZAED Autumn Workshop Series

The 2015 ANZAED Autumn workshop series will be held in the Barossa Valley and will feature adolescent and adult workshop streams, plus an Introduction to eating disorders workshop for dietitians.

Workshop facilitators include Andrew Wallis, Sue Byrne, Beth Shelton, Susan Paxton, Sue Simpson, Tania Ferraretto, Michelle Robertson, Liz Gibson and Gabriella Heruc.

Visit the ANZAED website for more details

Eating Disorders and Obesity

The 2nd Annual Australian & New Zealand Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference will be held at Outrigger, Surfers Paradise, May 18-19, 2015.

The 2015 conference will explore the common ground between Eating Disorders and Obesity. The conference will cover assessment, prevention, treatment and recovery

Visit the Eating Disorders and Obesity website for more details

ANZAED 2015 Conference: 21-22 August

The 13th annual conference of the Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders brings clinicians and researchers together to update each other on the latest local and international developments in the field. It will be held at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Queensland Australia on 21-22 August 2015, with pre-conference workshops on 20 August.

The Keynote speakers will be Professor Ivan Eisler from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London and Professor Stephen Touyz from the University of Sydney. In addition there will be a range of workshops, poster and oral presentations, plenaries, networking events and more.

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Resource Highlight

teenagers in a classroom

Eating Disorders in Schools: Prevention, Early Identification and Response

Educational institutions play a large and ongoing role in the influence of young people and can be instrumental in delivering positive messaging about body image, healthy eating and exercise behaviours.

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) have developed a new resource for education professionals working in schools to assist them in understanding eating disorders, promoting health and wellbeing within their schools, recognising and responding to eating disorders, and supporting students who are undergoing treatment for an eating disorder. The resource encourages a whole-school approach to eating disorders.

Download the resource

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See also

Issue 20 | Stigmatising Attitudes and Appropriate Communication

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue 20 | March 2014 Editors Note: Welcome to the March edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin.

Read more

Issue 34 | Pregnancy, Early Childcare and Eating Disorders

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue 34: Pregnancy, Early Childcare and Eating Disorders This month the National Eating Disorders Collaboration publicly launches our latest evidence-based resource for people at risk of eating disorders.

Read more

Issue 2 | Journal of Eating Disorders

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue Two | August 2012 Contents 1.

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Issue 71: Diabetes and dieting: Risk factors for eating disorders

Editor’s NoteDiabetes and eating disorders: Dr Beth SheltonDieting and children: Dr Laura HartPart 2: Video interview with Royal Children’s Hospital nurse Claire MayUpcoming events – ANZAED Autumn workshops Editor’s NoteWelcome to a new year and a new start in 2021.

Read more

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