Prevention programs for body image and eating disorders on University campuses: a review of large, controlled interventions

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Yager, Zali ORCID: 0000-0002-2503-7374 and O'Dea, Jennifer A (2008) Prevention programs for body image and eating disorders on University campuses: a review of large, controlled interventions. Health Promotion International, 23 (2). pp. 173-189. ISSN 0957-4824 (print) 1460-2245 (online)


Body dissatisfaction, dieting, eating disorders and exercise disorders are prevalent among male and female university students worldwide. Male students are also increasingly adopting health-damaging, body-imagerelated behaviors such as excessive weight lifting, body building and steroid abuse. Given the severity and difficulty of treating eating disorders, prevention of these problems is a recognized public health goal. Health promotion and health education programs have been conducted in the university setting since the mid 1980s, but few have achieved significant improvements in target health attitudes and behaviors. In this paper, 27 large, randomized and controlled health promotion and health education programs to improve body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating and exercise behaviors of male and female college students are reviewed. In general, health education programs to improve body image and prevent eating disorders in the university setting have been limited by small sample sizes and the exclusion of male students. The majority of studies were conducted among either female undergraduate psychology students or women that were recruited using on-campus advertising. The latter reduces the ability to generalize results to the whole university population, or the general community. In addition, there has been a paucity of longitudinal studies that are methodologically sound, as only 82% (22/27) of interventions included in the review used random assignment of groups, and only 52% (n ¼ 14) included follow-up testing. Information-based, cognitive behavioral and psychoeducational approaches have been the least effective at improving body image and eating problems among university students. Successful elements for future initiatives are identified as taking a media literacy- and dissonance-based educational approach, incorporating health education activities that build self-esteem, and using computers and the internet as a delivery medium. A newly designed program for Australian university students is described.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1093/heapro/dan004
Official URL
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy
Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Education
Keywords eating disorders, prevention, health promotion, university
Citations in Scopus 135 - View on Scopus
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