Eating disorders "mental health literacy" in low risk, high risk and symptomatic women

Implications for health promotion programs

Jonathan M. Mond, Phillipa J. Hay, Susan J. Paxton, Bryan Rodgers, Anita Darby, Jodi Nillson, Frances Quirk, Cathy Owen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


Attitudes and beliefs concerning the nature and treatment of bulimia nervosa (BN) were compared among young adult women at low risk of an eating disorder (n = 332), at high risk (n = 83), or already showing symptoms (n = 94). Participants completed a self-report questionnaire that included a measure of eating disorder symptoms. A vignette of a fictional person suffering from BN was presented, followed by a series of questions addressing the nature and treatment of the problem described. High-risk and symptomatic participants were more likely than low-risk participants to report that they would not approach anyone for advice or help, were they to have BN or a similar problem, because they would not want anyone to know. Symptomatic participants were more likely to believe that someone with BN would be discriminated against, more likely to consider bulimic behaviors to be acceptable, and more likely to view BN as being common among women in the community, than low-risk participants, participants in the high-risk group being intermediate on each of these questions. The findings suggest that the attitudes and beliefs of individuals with eating disorder symptoms differ systematically from those of individuals at high risk, but who do not yet have symptoms, and from those at low risk. They also indicate specific attitudes and beliefs that may need to be addressed in prevention and early intervention programs. The potential benefits of assessing individuals' attitudes and beliefs concerning the nature and treatment of eating-disordered behaviour and tailoring program content accordingly may be worthy of investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
JournalEating Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

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