Eating disorders in primary healthcare: Attitudes, knowledge and early detection.

The project aims to gain knowledge on early detection and management of eating disorders in primary care. Doctors are asked by survey about their attitudes and understanding of eating disorders. Afterwards, new tools are developed to enable earlier detection of the disease.

  • Period: 2022-03-30 – 2030-03-30
  • Funder: Centrum för klinisk forskning, Region Dalarna


Eating disorders are a relatively common group of complex diseases which are associated with increased suffering and death. The most afflicted group is young women, but eating disorders also affect men and older individuals. Only a small fraction of those suffering from an eating disorder seek help and get treatment, despite the fact that there are effective treatments available. The number of unrecorded cases is high, and many individuals suffer in silence, the reasons for which are complex and multifaceted. Some contributing factors are social stigma in society and among health care staff, a lack of understanding of the disease, and a low level of motivation to make changes, as well as a lack of knowledge and ability to diagnose and manage patients correctly among doctors. The diagnostic criteria for two common eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, were revised in 2013, when an update of the diagnostic tool was released (DSM-5). Along with this update, two more previously unrecognised and little researched eating disorders were added: binge eating disorder (BED), and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

The overarching goal of this project is to gain knowledge around early detection and management of eating disorders in primary care. We are planning a survey study among doctors working in primary care in order to map out their attitudes and understanding of the disease. Additionally, a qualitative interview study is planned which aims to dig deeper into the attitudes discovered in the survey study. Once these studies are complete we plan to develop a new screening tool for primary care use based on their results, adapted for the new diagnostic criteria, in order to enable earlier detection of eating disorders in patients.

Project leader: Lena Vendel
Co-investigators: Per Kristiansson, Ata Ghaderi, David Iggman, Elisabeth Welch