While there have been important recent advances in the development of effective universal prevention and intervention programs, it is not yet clear how to engage large numbers of students in these programs. In this paper, we report findings from a two-phase pilot study. In the first phase, we used a population-level, online survey to assess eating disorder symptom level and habits/attitudes related to service utilization (N = 2180). Using validated screening tools, we found that roughly one in three students has significant symptoms of eating disorders or elevated weight concerns, the vast majority of whom (86.5%) have not received treatment. In the second phase, we referred students to online prevention and selective/indicated intervention programs based on symptom classification (N = 1916). We find that program enrollment is highest for students in the indicated intervention (18.1%) and lowest for students in the universal prevention (4.1%). We find that traditionally-emphasized barriers such as stigma, misinformation, and financial limitations do not appear to be the most important factors preventing treatment-seeking. Rather students report not seeking help for reasons such as lack of time, lack of perceived need, and a desire to deal with the issue “on my own.” Findings offer insight into the treatment-seeking habits and attitudes of college students, including those barriers that may be overcome by offering online programs and those that persist despite increased access to and convenience of relevant resources.
- College students
- Eating disorders