Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health
The Healthy Bodies Study
The Healthy Bodies Study (HBS)
What is the Healthy Bodies Study?
The Healthy Bodies Study (HBS) is a line of work seeking to explore the prevalence and correlates of disordered eating on college and university campuses and the extent to which students with apparent need are utilizing mental health resources. HBS is comprised of several complimentary, population-level research projects designed to understand and address these issues. Projects include an annual web-based survey focused on students’ relationships with eating, dieting, exercising, and body image, and online interventions to promote help-seeking among students with untreated symptoms of disordered eating.
From 2013-2015, HBS was administered as a separate online survey. Beginning in fall 2015, HBS has been incorporated as a component of the newly enhanced Healthy Minds Network annual survey. This survey is an amalgamation of HBS and HMN’s other major survey, the Healthy Minds Study. Based on years of feedback from participating institutions, HMN’s surveys have been re-designed as a set of modules each covering important topics related to campus mental health. In essence, HBS is now a module within HMN’s new and improved survey!
The Eating and Body Image module retains the comprehensiveness of HBS, as previously administered, while allowing for further examination of correlations across survey topics (e.g., the prevalence of co-occurring disordered eating and self-injurious behavior, or the relationship between eating pathology and experiences of sexual assault). The Eating and Body Image module includes several validated screening tools as well as other items of interest to administrators, clinicians, and researchers. The Weight Concerns Scale is used to assess body image dissatisfaction, while the SCOFF and Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaires are used to assess eating pathology (including binge eating and purging behavior). For more information about HBS survey research, please click here.
About HBS Intervention Research
In addition to its population-level survey research, HBS is comprised of a series of innovative intervention and prevention programs focused primarily on promoting help-seeking among college students with untreated symptoms of disordered eating. In recent years, the HBS team has been involved in the design, implementation, and assessment of numerous intervention and prevention programs. This is an exciting line of research that is constantly evolving and often providing unique opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and mutually-beneficial partnerships with campus practitioners. For more information about HBS intervention research, please click here.
The Need for HBS Research
Disordered eating and body image dissatisfaction are common in undergraduate and graduate student populations. Previous research on college student mental health has focused primarily on depression, anxiety, suicidality and substance use. Considerably less is known about eating disorders relative to other mental health problems common in college student populations. This is particularly true when considering that eating disorders, like other mental health problems, exist along a continuum of severity. Where much attention has been paid to subclinical depression and anxiety in national epidemiological college-based research, measures of disordered eating have typically been reduced to but a handful of questions about specific behaviors, often described in clinical terms. While important studies have addressed eating disorders in specifically defined student sub-groups (e.g., sorority women, female athletes, students from certain academic departments), these are usually single-site studies with limited generalizability. Through its survey research and intervention work, HBS takes a public health approach by assessing and addressing disordered eating at the population-level.