World first in preventing eating disorders

2girlsThe only eating disorder prevention program in the world to show long-term success when trialled on early teenagers has just been released by the Flinders University School of Psychology.

Media Smart
is an eight-lesson program that focuses on the manipulation of images in the media, building self-esteem and teaching young people how to analyse and challenge media messages.

Flinders Psychologists Dr Simon Wilksch and Professor Tracey Wade developed Media Smart to try to prevent the growing number of Australian adolescents engaging in dangerous eating behaviours.

“Eating disorders are associated with the highest level of mortality of any psychological disorders,” Professor Wade said.

As one of the world’s largest eating disorder prevention studies with the longest follow-up evaluation, Professor Wade said part of the success of the Media Smart trial comes from the program not including discussions of eating disorders.

“In the past, researchers have trialled a lot of other programs but they haven’t managed to decrease risk factors or show any long term effects. In fact, some studies have even found providing information to young people about eating disorders can be harmful,” she said.

Media Smart was trialled with 233 Year 8 students from four Adelaide schools over 30 months.

Before the program and at regular follow-ups, students were required to complete questionnaires about shape and weight concerns, dieting, perceived pressures, depression and self-esteem.

Evaluation showed a significant improvement in the way both male and female students who received the program felt about their shape and weight over the 30-month period, as compared to the same number of control students who had not received the program. Significant benefits were also found for four other risk factors including depression and dieting.

The program is now available to purchase for individuals and schools from the Flinders University School of Psychology by calling (08) 8201 7996.

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