Objectives: To examine eating concerns in a cohort of Irish adolescents.
Methods: Students from a stratified random sample of post primary schools were screened using the EAT-26, the EDI-III and a study specific questionnaire.
Results: A total of 3,031 students (mean age 14.74, range 12–19) enrolled in the study. The majority of respondents felt popular (91%), happy (75.2%) and perceived themselves to have a good quality of life (86.8%). Despite this, 32% of females dieted, 29.4% were dissatisfied with their bodies, and 10.8% scored above 20 on the EAT-26. Adolescents always on a diet reported a lower quality of life (QoL) X2(16, N=2,961) =144.43, p <.000, perceived themselves to be less popular X2(15, N=2,963) =53.26, p <.000 and less academically able X2(16, N=2,297) =43.96, p<.000, than those who never dieted. Comparing EPICA values to published norms, Irish males had significantly lower EAT scores, females had comparable total EAT-26 scores but significantly lower levels of dieting and higher levels of bulimic features and oral control. Girls in mixed schools had higher rates of body dissatisfaction F (1,2855) = 16.61, p <.001 and drive for thinness F (1,2860) = 11.78, p <.005 than girls attending same sex schools.
Conclusions: Weight and body image concerns were high among Irish adolescents, especially females, with higher than expected levels of bulimia and oral control scores on the EAT but lower scores on the dieting subscale. Females attending mixed sex schools appear most at risk of eating pathology.