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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Disordered eating: What's not online


The quality of online information about eating disorders is sorely lacking, and that puts teens, their families, and vulnerable people seeking health information at risk, Susan Kelly-Weeder, Barbara E. Wolfe, and four colleagues write in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.

Using Google, Yahoo,, and AltaVista (Search Engine Watch's top four search recommendations in 2007), the research team (which included adolescent girls and young women) selected 115 websites that included the terms "anorexia," "anorexia nervosa," "binge eating disorder," "bulimia," "bulimia nervosa," "eating problems," and "eating disorders."

Their results showed a dearth of information on the clinical characteristics of eating disorders and treatment options on the vast majority of these sites.

According to the authors, few of the sites accurately and sufficiently described the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for anorexia nervosa (13.2 percent), bulimia nervosa (15.8 percent), eating disorders not otherwise specified (6.9 percent), and binge eating disorders (8 percent).

Noting research that shows approximately three out of four people who use the Internet to gather health information don't check the source or date of information they find online, the authors conclude that "Healthcare providers need to be aware of the types of information that are available online and educate their clients about the limitations of these resources."

They recommend four websites for eating disorder and health information.

Academy for Eating Disorders

National Eating Disorders Association

American Academy of Pediatrics

National Institutes of Mental Health