Examining the prevalence of disordered eating in a cohort of young Australians presenting for mental health care at a headspace centre: results from a cross-sectional clinical survey study.

BMJ Journals
Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMJ Open, 2022, 12, (8), pp. 1-8
Issue Date:
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OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of disordered eating in young people attending a headspace centre, an enhanced primary care centre providing early intervention services for mental health disorders for young people aged 12-25 years, in metropolitan Sydney. DESIGN: Cross-sectional assessment of disordered eating symptoms and behaviours. SETTING: An enhanced primary care youth mental health service in inner urban Sydney, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: A sequential cohort of 530 young people aged 14-26 years presenting to headspace Camperdown for support with mental health concerns. OUTCOME MEASURES: Participants completed a series of questionnaires online which included items assessing the presence of eating disorder symptoms and behaviours. RESULTS: Over one-third of young people aged 14-26 years presenting to headspace Camperdown in a 22-month period reported symptoms of disordered eating. Of these, 32% endorsed overeating behaviours, 25% endorsed dietary restriction and 8% reported purging behaviours. In total, 44% reported engaging in one of more of these behaviours on a regular basis. Almost half reported experiencing significant shape and weight concerns. Eating disorder behaviours were particularly prevalent among female and gender-diverse participants (48% of females and 46% of gender-diverse participants compared with 35% of males) and overall scores across all of the eating disorder and body image items assessed were significantly higher for female participants compared with males. CONCLUSIONS: Disordered eating behaviours and symptoms are common among those presenting to youth mental health primary care services. Proactive screening for these behaviours presents opportunities for early detection and specific interventions. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12618001676202; Results.
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