The prevention of eating disorders is a main concern of the Vienna Women's Health Programme, which was adopted by the Vienna City Council in 1998. Eating disorders are very serious mental health problems in adolescence. There is evidence that media exposure of the thin ideal body image leads to uncertainty, low self-esteem and dieting. To examine the current state of body (dis-)satisfaction and the risk of eating disorders among Viennese adolescents, we surveyed 1427 participants at the age of 12 to 17, using a self-assessment questionnaire that included the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI-2), the SCOFF-questionnaire and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. Results support our hypothesis. The highest concern among adolescents is about their weight and body shape. 76% of the girls surveyed wanted a skinny body, 31% were afraid of gaining weight, and 32% have already been dieting - 13% took appetite suppressants, 5% used vomiting, 3% took laxatives. According to the SCOFF-questionnaire, 30% of the girls were at risk of having eating disorders. Trends were evaluated via regression analysis. In 2012 girls used less dieting and had lower scores in the EDI-2 subscales ‘body dissatisfaction’, ‘drive for thinness’ and ‘bulimia’ than in 2001. Boys had less conspicuous scores than girls in total, but have shown an alarming increase in body dissatisfaction. School prevention programmes are indicated to enhance media literacy and encourage self-esteem among adolescents. To be successful, an interdisciplinary approach has to be established. The City of Vienna has already launched several awareness campaigns to counter unhealthy body ideals.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.