Identifying eating disorder risk factors for early intervention

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A recent study suggests that pre-teens who develop eating disorder symptoms may exhibit risk factors as younger children. Over the course of the six-year longitudinal study, researchers collected data on eating disorder symptoms, feelings of depression, and body satisfaction at ages seven, nine, and 12.

Results indicated that children with a high number of eating disorder symptoms at age nine also had a high number of eating disorder symptoms at age 12. Symptoms include binge-eating, rigid dieting, making oneself sick after eating, and feeling anxious about gaining weight.

The researchers identified three major signs that parents, teachers, and doctors should look out for in children if they hope to intervene before an eating disorder develops:

1. Boys and girls with body dissatisfaction

2. Girls with depressive symptoms

3. Boys and girls with eating disorder symptoms

The research is unique because most studies focus on children and adolescents at one age, so it is not clear which factors precede others. The researchers will follow up with the same cohort again when they are 15 years old to investigate whether the trend continues in older adolescents.

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