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Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Sep;22(2):167-72.

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

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Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Warneford Hospital, United Kingdom.



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


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.


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.


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.

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