Eating disorders are under-researched illnesses that are associated with a higher risk of dying young. They come at a high personal and financial cost to the individuals who suffer, as well as to their families and wider society. Our research is intended to increase our understanding of disordered eating behaviours, and how people view and feel about their bodies. The hope is that this will help us to develop new methods to prevent and treat eating disorders.

To do this, we work with a group of collaborators with a range of research skills – ranging from epidemiology and cognitive neuroscience, to computer sciences and sociology. The most important thing for us is that our work contributes to improving prevention and treatment outcomes. This means that working closely with clinicians and patients is key. Our group is led by consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Helen Bould, and we hold focus groups to hear from people with lived experience.

Epidemiology (key collaborators: Dr Jon Heron, Dr Becky Mars, Dr Carol Joinson, Prof David Gunnell, Prof Paul Moran, Dr Rebecca Pearson, Dr Alex Kwong, Prof Marcus Munafò, Dr Anne Stewart (University of Oxford), Dr Francesca Solmi (University College London), Prof Cecilia Magnusson (Karolinska Institute)

Areas of study:

- the relationship between self-harm and disordered eating

- the role of emotion regulation in this relationship

- the effect of COVID-19 on people with a history of disordered eating

- the role of pubertal timing on eating disorder symptoms

- understanding who has symptoms of an eating disorder and who gets treatment for an eating disorder

Cognitive Neuroscience/Psychological Sciences (key collaborators: Prof Ian Penton-Voak, Prof Marcus Munafò, Dr Angela Attwood, Thea House (PhD student), Dr Katrina Graham (CAMHS registrar, Severn Deanery), Prof Ian Stephen (Macquarie University))

Areas of study:

- the relationship between attention to different body sizes and body (dis)satisfaction

- ways to measure body satisfaction

- body size perception

Use of Technology (key collaborators: Dr Lucy Biddle, Dr Jon Bird, Bridget Ellis (PhD student), Prof Ian Penton-Voak, Prof Marcus Munafò, Dr Rosanna Moore (CAMHS registrar, Severn Deanery), Dr Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham), Dr Maria Michail (University of Birmingham)

Areas of study:

- exploring views of people with lived experience of eating disorders on the role of virtual reality in treatment

- designing and using moment-to-moment measurement (Ecological Momentary Assessment) to better understand the time course of eating disorders and self-harm.

Group Members:

Dr Helen Bould (lead)

Dr Naomi Warne (Senior Research Associate)

Bridget Ellis (PhD student, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Health and Care)

Thea House (PhD student, cotutelle scheme between University of Bristol and Macquarie University, Sydney)


The group is affiliated to the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, working with Prof Marcus Munafò’s programme: Causes, Consequences and Modification of Health Behaviour. Dr Bould is affiliated to Prof Cecilia Magnusson’s Group in the Dept of Global Public Health at the Karolinska Institute.

Key Grants:

January 2021 - January 2022:  Anna Lavis, Helen Bould, Christina Easter, Maria Michail, Kalen Reid. Self-Harm in Eating Disorders: A Mixed-Methods Exploratory Study (SHINE Study). NIHR RfPB. £149,956.00 

October 2019 - October 2021:  Helen Bould, Paul Moran, Jon Heron, David Gunnell, Becky Mars, Anne Stewart, Marcus Munafò, Ian Penton-Voak, Andy Skinner, Lucy Biddle (2018). Emotional dysregulation, self-harm and eating disorders: a mechanistic investigation. Medical Research Foundation/Medical Research Council £252,734 

April 2020 - March 2021:  Biddle, Moran, Gooberman-Hill, Bould, Linton, McNaney, Sedgewick, Turner, Davis, Haworth, Maude. Adolescence, digital technology and mental health care: exploring opportunity and harm. £99,999. MRC/AHRC/ESRC

Naomi Warne, Helen Bould, Becky Mars, Jon Heron, Francesca Solmi, Paul Moran. Exploring self-harm and disordered eating as risk factors for poorer mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. £4632.15. Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Rapid Research Call (COVID-19), & £959. Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Quality-Related Strategic Priorities Fund.

Key Publications & Preprints:

Warne, N., Heron, J., Mars, B., Moran, P., Stewart, A., Munafo, M. Biddle, L., Skinner, A., Gunnell, D. J., Bould, H. Comorbidity of self-harm and disordered eating in young people: Evidence from a UK population-based cohort (MedRxiv 2020)

Kwong, A. S. F., Pearson, R. M., Adams, M. J., Northstone, K., Tilling, K., Smith, D., Fawns-Ritchie, C., Bould, H., Warne, N., Zammit, S., Gunnell, D., Moran, P., Micali, N., Reichenberg, A., Hickman, M., Rai, D., Haworth, S., Campbell, A., Altschul, D., ... Timpson, N. J. (2020). Mental health before and during COVID-19 in two longitudinal UK population cohorts. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2020 1-27.

Solmi, F., Bould, H. E., Lloyd, E. C., & Lewis, G. The shrouded visibility of eating disorders research. Lancet Psychiatry. 20 Nov 2020 (epub ahead of print)

Solmi, F., Bentivegna, F., Bould, H., Mandy, W., Kothari, R., Rai, D., Skuse, D. & Lewis, G. Trajectories of autistic social traits in childhood and adolescence and disordered eating behaviours at age 14 years: A UK general population cohort study Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 3 May 2020 (epub ahead of print)

Bould, H. E., Noonan, K., Penton-Voak, I. S., Skinner, A. L., Munafo, M. R., Park, R. J., Broome, M. & Harmer, C. J. Does repeatedly viewing overweight versus underweight images change perception of and satisfaction with own body size? Royal Society Open Science 1 Apr 2020

Helen Bould, Rebecca Carnegie, Heather Allward, Emily Bacon, Emily Lambe, Megan Sapseid, Katherine S. Button, Glyn Lewis, Andy Skinner, Matthew R. Broome, Rebecca Park, Catherine J. Harmer, Ian S. Penton-Voak, Marcus R. Munafò. Effects of exposure to bodies of different sizes on perception of and satisfaction with own body size: two randomized studies Royal Society Open Science 2018 5 17 1387; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171387

Bould, H, De Stavola, B., Lewis, G., Micali, N. Do disordered eating behaviours in girls vary by school characteristics? A UK cohort study European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 2018: s00787-018-1133-0

Bould, H, Newbegin, C, Fazel, M, Stewart, A, Stein, A. Assessment of a child or young person with a possible eating disorder. BMJ 2017;359:j5328

Bould, H, Newbegin, C, Stewart, A, Stein, A, Fazel, M. “Eating disorders in children and young people” BMJ 2017;359:j5245

Bould, H, DeStavola, B, Magnusson, C, Micali, N, Dal, H, Evans, J, Dalman, C, Lewis, G. The influence of school on whether girls develop eating disorders. International Journal of Epidemiology 2016 Apr 20.

Bould, H, Sovio, U, Koupil, I, Dalman, C, Micali, N, Lewis, G, Magnusson, C. “Do eating disorders in parents predict eating disorders in children? Evidence from a Swedish cohort” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 2015 Jul; 132(1): 51-9.

European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2015 Jun; 24: S70-S71

Bould, H, Koupil, I, Dalman, C, DeStavola, B, Lewis, G, Magnusson, C. Parental mental illness and eating disorders in offspring. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2015 May, 48(4):383-91

Pre-registered studies:

House, T., Graham, K., Bould, H., Attwood, A. S., Stephen, I., Brooks, K. R., & Penton-Voak, I. (2020, October 16). Is body dissatisfaction related to an attentional bias towards low fat bodies in non-clinical female populations? A systematic review and meta-analysis. (

Thea House, Wong H. Keat, Noelle W. Samuel, Ian Stephen, Kevin R. Brooks, Helen Bould, Angela S. Attwood, et al. 2020. “A Cross-cultural Study on Own-race Effects in the Relationship Between Body Dissatisfaction and Attentional Bias Towards Low Fat Bodies.” OSF. December 14. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/HU5J4.

Warne, N., Heron, J., Mars, B., Solmi, F., Moran, P., Stewart, A., Munafo, M. Penton-Voak, I., Biddle, L., Skinner, A., Gunnell, D. J., Bould, H. Emotion dysregulation, self-harm and disordered eating: A protocol for a mechanistic investigation (OSF 2020)

Eating disorders and body image.

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