Disordered eating and body image dissatisfaction are common on college and university campuses, yet relative to other mental health problems common in student populations (e.g., depression and anxiety), considerably less is known about clinical and sub-clinical eating disorders. The Healthy Bodies Study (HBS) takes a public health approach by assessing a range of eating and body image measures at the population-level. HBS encompasses a number of related projects that seek to explore and address the prevalence and correlates of disordered eating and body image dissatisfaction and the help-seeking habits and attitudes of students with apparent need.
The undergraduate years coincide with age of onset for eating disorders (19-25 years), presenting unique opportunities for early intervention on college campuses. Unfortunately, this opportunity is largely missed. The treatment gap -- the proportion of affected students not receiving treatment -- is wide: 80% of students with clinically significant symptoms do not receive care. Left untreated, eating disorders typically become more severe and refractory to treatment. In response to this, the HBS team developed and implemented a 12-week online intervention to identify students with untreated symptoms of eating disorders and promote help-seeking.
The pilot study was conducted during the winter/spring 2015 semester on four college and university campuses. To ensure feasibility, the study was limited to four campuses while making every effort to ensure that these sites represented a diverse set of schools. The sites were: Appalachian State University, Bard College, Mercyhurst University, and University of Michigan.