New questionnaire helps identify eating disorders in women

December 02, 1999

The SCOFF questionnaire: assessment of a new screening tool for eating disorders

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A team of researchers have designed a questionnaire to help detect eating disorders in women. Dr John Morgan et al from St George's Hospital Medical School report that the five questions they have devised are simple, memorable and easy to apply and they say that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it be used routinely in all patients considered at risk of eating disorders.

The questions are:-

· Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?

· Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat?

· Have you recently lost more than One stone in a three month period?

· Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?

· Would you say that Food dominates your life?

The questionnaire was evaluated on 116 women aged 18-40 years who were confirmed as having either anorexia or bulimia and also in 96 women who were confirmed as not having an eating disorder. The authors say that all participants found the questions and the term 'SCOFF' acceptable.

Morgan et al suggest that two or more positive answers to all five questions denote a possible case of an eating disorder. They found that the questionnaire picked up 100 per cent of the anorexia and bulimia cases, but also had a false positive rate of 12.5 per cent, which the authors say is an acceptable trade off for the very high sensitivity of the method.

They conclude that the SCOFF questionnaire seems to be highly effective as a screening instrument for detecting eating disorders and that it is designed to raise suspicion of a likely case rather than to diagnose. They suggest that further work is needed to validate it among a wider population, but none the less there is sufficient evidence for it to be routinely used in all patients at risk of eating disorders.

Contact:

Professor Hubert Lacey, Department of Psychiatry, St George's Hospital Medical School, London Tel: +44(0)181 672 1255 ext5528
jmorgan@sghms.ac.uk
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BMJ

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