Mapping the evidence for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in young peopleReport as inadecuate

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Journal of Eating Disorders

, 2:5

First Online: 03 February 2014Received: 06 August 2013Accepted: 13 December 2013DOI: 10.1186-2050-2974-2-5

Cite this article as: Bailey, A.P., Parker, A.G., Colautti, L.A. et al. J Eat Disord 2014 2: 5. doi:10.1186-2050-2974-2-5


Eating disorders often develop during adolescence and young adulthood, and are associated with significant psychological and physical burden. Identifying evidence-based interventions is critical and there is need to take stock of the extant literature, to inform clinical practice regarding well-researched interventions and to direct future research agendas by identifying gaps in the evidence base.

AimTo investigate and quantify the nature and distribution of existing high-quality research on the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in young people using evidence mapping methodology.

MethodA systematic search for prevention and treatment intervention studies in adolescents and young adults 12–25 years was conducted using EMBASE, PSYCINFO and MEDLINE. Studies were screened and mapped according to disorder, intervention modality, stage of eating disorder and study design. Included studies were restricted to controlled trials and systematic reviews published since 1980.

ResultsThe eating disorders evidence map included 197 trials and 22 systematic reviews. Prevention research was dominated by trials of psychoeducation PE. Bulimia nervosa BN received the most attention in the treatment literature, with cognitive behavioural therapy CBT and antidepressants the most common interventions. For anorexia nervosa AN, family based therapy FBT was the most studied. Lacking were trials exploring treatments for binge eating disorder BED and eating disorder not otherwise specified EDNOS. Relapse prevention strategies were notably absent across the eating disorders.

ConclusionsDespite substantial literature devoted to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in young people, the evidence base is not well established and significant gaps remain. For those identified as being at-risk, there is need for prevention research exploring strategies other than passive PE. Treatment interventions targeting BED and EDNOS are required, as are systematic reviews synthesising BN treatment trials e.g., CBT, antidepressants. FBTs for AN require investigation against other validated psychological interventions, and the development of relapse prevention strategies is urgently required. By systematically identifying existing interventions for young people with eating disorders and exposing gaps in the current literature, the evidence map can inform researchers, funding bodies and policy makers as to the opportunities for future research.

KeywordsEating disorders Treatment Prevention Evidence mapping Adolescent Young adult AbbreviationsANAnorexia nervosa

BNBulimia nervosa

EDNOSEating disorder not otherwise specified

BEDBinge eating disorder

FBTFamily based therapy

CBTCognitive behavioural therapy


SSRISelective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-2050-2974-2-5 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Alan P Bailey - Alexandra G Parker - Lauren A Colautti - Laura M Hart - Ping Liu - Sarah E Hetrick



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