Pathways to improve early intervention for eating disorders: Findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis

Marcela Radunz, Kathina Ali, Tracey D. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Treatment-seeking rates among eating disorder (ED) populations are relatively low, with only one in four individuals seeking help. Previous research has identified many factors that might be associated with help-seeking in EDs, but to date no review has investigated the quantitative association between these factors and actual help-seeking behavior. The aim of the current review was to synthesize the relevant quantitative literature on factors (i.e., perceived barriers, characteristics associated with treatment seeking, demographic variables) associated with help-seeking using meta-analytic strategies, as well as provide recommendations on future early intervention research strategies to promote early help-seeking. 

Method: Overall, 19 studies were included, identifying 141 perceived barriers (e.g., stigma) or individual characteristics (e.g., BMI, duration of illness) and 56 demographic variables (e.g., ethnicity), which were synthesized into 24 unique variables. Results: Less help-seeking was predicted by higher levels of denial and less perceived ability of others to provide help.

Discussion: Given the small number of studies these results should be considered preliminary. Future studies should consider barriers to help-seeking when creating early intervention approaches. To improve help-seeking rates we suggest the use of targeted psychoeducational materials and co-design with people with lived experience when developing new strategies. 

Public Significance: The present study addresses a significant gap in the literature by synthesizing factors associated with help-seeking, with the aim of informing early intervention strategies to promote early help-seeking in eating disorder populations. Denial of illness and perceived inability of others to provide help were associated with lower help-seeking. Future studies should consider barriers to help-seeking and co-design with people with lived experience when creating new early intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Early online date8 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • barrier
  • denial
  • early intervention
  • help-seeking
  • treatment

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