, Volume 17, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 82-91
Date: 08 Jan 2009

Disordered eating behaviour and attitudes, associated psychopathology and health-related quality of life: results of the BELLA study

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To identify disordered eating behaviour and attitudes in a large representative population in order to determine the relationship with body weight status, and to assess associated psychopathology and health-related quality of life.


A total of 11–17 year-old adolescents (n = 1,895) were randomly selected from the national representative sample of 17,641 families participating in the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS). Weight and height were assessed by trained staff. Mental health problems and health-related quality of life were examined by means of a telephone interview and different questionnaires. Eating disordered behaviour and attitudes were identified by the SCOFF, an instrument consisting of five questions originally developed to screen for eating disorders in clinical settings.


About one third of the girls and 15% of the boys reported disordered eating behaviour and attitudes, which were most prevalent in overweight youth. There was a significant association between the presence of disordered eating behaviour and psychopathology, which was comprised of internalising and externalising behavioural problems. In addition, adolescents with disordered eating behaviour reported reduced quality of life.


The high prevalence of disordered eating in the general population of Germany is of great concern. Health professionals should not only be aware of disordered eating in underweight adolescents, but in all youth, especially overweight individuals. Disordered eating behaviour is associated with a wide range of psychopathological and psychosocial concerns. Thus, youngsters engaging in disordered eating behaviour should also be explored for other serious mental or social problems.

Members of the BELLA study group: Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer (Principal Investigator), Claus Barkmann, Susanne Bettge, Monika Bullinger, Manfred Döpfner, Michael Erhart, Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, Heike Hölling, Franz Resch, Aribert Rothenberger, Michael Schulte-Markwort, Nora Wille, Hans-Ulrich Wittchen.