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Eating Disorder Patients Visit Pro-Disorder Web Sites

Most parents unaware of whether their child visited eating disorder Web sites

THURSDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of adolescents with eating disorders have visited pro-eating-disorder Web sites, which have a negative impact on patients in terms of duration of illness and learning new weight loss and purging techniques, researchers report in the December issue of Pediatrics. In addition, many parents are unaware of such sites.

Rebecka Peebles, M.D., from Stanford University School of Medicine in Mountain View, Calif., and colleagues administered anonymous surveys to 182 individuals with eating disorders and their parents (76 patients and 106 parents) regarding their awareness and usage of eating disorder Web sites.

Overall, 35.5 percent of patients reported visiting pro-disorder Web sites, 41 percent visited pro-recovery sites, 25 percent visited both, and about half visited neither. Nearly all (96 percent) patients visiting pro-eating-disorder sites reported learning new weight loss or purging techniques, although about half of those visiting pro-recovery sites (46.4 percent) also reported learning new techniques. Patients visiting pro-eating-disorder Web sites had longer illnesses and spent less time on schoolwork, and patients visiting either pro-disorder or pro-recovery sites were hospitalized more often.

About 52.8 percent of parents were aware of pro-eating-disorder Web sites but 62.5 percent were unaware of pro-recovery Web sites.

"Although use of these sites was not associated with other health outcomes, usage may have a negative impact on quality of life and result in adolescents' learning about and adopting disordered eating behaviors," Peebles and colleagues conclude.

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