University of Cambridge > > Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) > Eating disorders in the classroom: Designing and testing a new universal prevention programme for secondary schools

Eating disorders in the classroom: Designing and testing a new universal prevention programme for secondary schools

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Eating disorders are strong candidates for preventative efforts because they are associated with severe disability, high mortality, and enduring course. Prevention programmes have focused on targeted interventions for those judged to be at high risk. There are, however, compelling reasons to explore the potential of universal interventions. The aim of the study was to determine the efficacy, feasibility and acceptability of a new universal intervention designed to reduce risk factors for eating disorders. This intervention, called Me, You & Us, augments established media literacy and self esteem approaches with positive psychology initiatives. The six lessons targets media internalisation, peer appearance conversations, low mood and self esteem. The efficacy of Me, You & Us was tested in a clustered randomized controlled trial in which 446 adolescents girls (mean age = 13.03, s.d. = 0.57) were assigned to intervention or curriculum-as-usual control. Questionnaire-based assessments of risk factors for eating disorders were administered at pre-intervention, post-intervention and three month follow up. There were significant improvements in body esteem, internalization of thin ideal and self esteem in those receiving the intervention compared to controls, with differences largely maintained at three month follow up. No group differences were observed in the frequency of appearance conversations, depressive symptoms, perceptions of peer support or eating pathology. The findings suggest that Me, You & Us is a promising new prevention programme for eating disorders. Further work considering active ingredients, improving efficacy across the range of outcomes, and longer term follow-ups would be valuable.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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