`Early warning' test devised for eating disorders

DOCTORS HAVE devised a simple, five-question test designed to detect people with eating disorders, which they believe could save lives by helping sufferers get treatment earlier.

Scoff, an acronym of the first letters of key words in the screening test, has been tried out by researchers at the medical school of St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, who say the questions are easy to remember and apply.

Dr John Morgan, a clinical research fellow in psychiatry at St George's, who devised the questionnaire, said it was intended to help GPs and hospital doctors to detect sufferers. In a trial of 212 women, the test identified all those suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

It also suggested problems in 12.5 per cent of the unaffected women, but Dr Morgan, 32, said the error rate was an "acceptable trade-off" for the accuracy of the test in picking up all the genuine sufferers. The test had picked him as a possible sufferer, when he returned from Egypt underweight after a bout of amoebic dysentery.

More than 100,000 people in the UK are estimated by the Eating Disorders Association to have a disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, but many go undiagnosed. "This is a way of helping doctors by raising their index of suspicion. It is not a diagnosis," Dr Morgan said.

Studies published in the past decade put the death rate from anorexia studied over a 20-year period at between 5 and 20 per cent, more than deaths from schizophrenia, but doctors are still not taking the condition seriously, Dr Morgan said. "I did a study of gynaecologists and they were hopeless at detecting anorexia and regarded it as trivial. Male doctors can be very hostile to it."

Women account for 85 per cent of cases, according to the Eating Disorders Association, but is also seen in men. Lena Zavaroni, the Seventies pop star who died in October after brain surgery, was a lifelong anorexia sufferer, and Adam Rickett of Coronation Street has also admitted to having the disorder. Treatment usually involves cognitive therapy, and success is greater the earlier treatment is started.

Despite its name, the Scoff test, which was published in The Lancet, proved acceptable to the women questioned, who were aged 18 to 40, Dr Morgan said. It is modelled on a widely used four-question test called Cage, used to detect people with drink problems.

Critics said Scoff was unlikely to work outside the confines of the hospital. Dr Dee Dawson, who runs the Rhodes Farm clinic for children with eating disorders in north London, said: "It sounds incredibly simplistic. These are standard questions. The problem we all face with these patients is that they don't tell the truth. That is why our assessment takes a couple of hours." She added: "Being secretive is the hallmark of bulimia, and anorexia runs it close second. I have known patients who lived for 10 years vomiting three times a day and their partners never found out."

A spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association agreed. "We welcome any test but people are unlikely to say, `Yes, that's me, I have got a problem', because of the denial that is associated with the condition."

S.C.O.F.F. QUIZ

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

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

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

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

5 Would you say that Food dominates your life?

If you answer yes to two or more questions you have anorexia or bulimia

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness