Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) By David M. Garner, et al.*
The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) is probably the most widely used standardized measure of symptoms and concerns characteristic of eating disorders. Many studies have been conducted using the EAT-26 as a screening tool and are based on the assumption that early identification of an eating disorder can lead to earlier treatment thereby reducing morbidity and mortality.
The EAT-26 was selected as the screening instrument used in the 1998 National Eating Disorders Screening Program, and the data on the 1998 survey are currently being analyzed. Most surveys of adolescents or young adult women using the EAT-26 indicate that about 15% score at or above 20. Of those who score at 20 or above on the EAT-26, interviews have shown that a high proportion have clinical significant eating disorders or "partial syndromes" characterized by some but not all of the symptoms required to meet the full diagnostic criteria. Interviews of those who score below 20 on the EAT-26 show that the test produces very few false negatives (i.e. those with low EAT-26 scores who have eating disorders or serious eating concerns on being interviewed).
The EAT-26 alone does not yield a specific diagnosis of an eating disorder. Neither the EAT-26, nor any other screening instrument, has been established as highly efficient as the sole means for identifying eating disorders. However, studies have shown that the EAT-26 can be an efficient screening instrument as part of a two-stage screening process in which those who score at or above a cut-off score of 20 are interviewed in a diagnostic interview. If you have a low score on the EAT-26 (below 20), you still could have an eating problem, so do not let the results deter you from seeking help if you think that you might need it.
Also, if you do have a high score, do not panic. It does not necessarily mean that you have a life-threatening condition of that you will have to immediately seek a form of treatment that may be uncomfortable. If you have a score of 20 or more, this simply means that you should seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional who has experience with treating eating disorders.
All self-report measures require open and honest responses in order to provide accurate information. The fact that most people provide honest responses means that the EAT-26 usually provides very useful information about the eating symptoms and concerns that are common in eating disorders
If you score above 20 on the EAT-26, please contact your physician or an eating disorders treatment specialist for a follow-up evaluation.
* Permission for use granted by Dr. David Garner