Department of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology


Epidemiology and Public Health


Phone: +45 35326078

Research leader

Katrine Strandberg-Larsen

MSc Public Health Science, PhD, Associate Professor, born 1979

Project title

Identifying pre-clinical stages of eating disorders: a way to improve prevention and treatment

What is your project about?

More than two thirds of individuals with an eating disorder never receive treatment, and patients with an eating disorder have often been ill for years before seeking treatment. Patients in treatment for an eating disorder, therefore, constitute the tip of the iceberg that also includes individuals with non-diagnosed manifest eating disorders as well as individuals with disordered eating behaviors of various severities. By examining the spectrum of disordered eating behavior to eating disorders, and how this develop across adolescence, we can identify strategies for earlier detection. Furthermore, we can disentangle causes of eating disorder, per se from factors affecting treatment-seeking.  

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

Throughout my research career, I have followed a cohort of approx. 95 000 individuals from infancy and collected data on their health and living when they were 11 and 18 years of age, respectively. A bit more than one per twenties had disordered eating at 11 years of age, while <1% had an eating disorder, and this applied to both boys and girls. These data, in combination with clinically recognized eating disorders derived by linkage to national registries, constitute a unique and unparalleled resource that, if fully exploited, can provide new insight into the causes and development of eating disorders across adolescence. 

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

Disordered eating behavior increases the risk of developing an eating disorder later, and individuals with eating disorders have a lower quality of life. No well-established definitions of disordered eating behaviors and grading of severity exist. Therefore, we have little insight into which disordered eating behaviors or degree thereof to intervene on to prevent  an eating disorder. The majority of individuals with disordered eating behavior will never develop an eating disorder. In addition to establishing empirical evidence of an eating disorder spectrum from disordered eating to an eating disorder diagnosis, we will develop algorithms to predict for whom disordered eating will resolve, persist or develop into an eating disorder across adolescence. 

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

Eating disorders are severe disorders associated with premature death, and a relatively low recovery rate. The chance of a full recovery is more likely with early detection and intervention, however, this is challenging as most patients today have been ill for years before seeking treatment. This calls for prevention, which requires insight into ways to identify pre-clinical stages of eating disorders, whom to intervene upon and who is better left alone and, finally, causes of eating disorder. 

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

The Sapere Aude programme enables me to kick start a large and ambitious project, and, as a first step, establish a group including a PhD student, a child- and adolescents psychiatrist/researcher and a postdoc. The program ensures that I can expand my research within mental health problems across adolescence in non-clinical samples and exploit the research infrastructure that I have invested years in building up. 

Background and personal life

I live by the saying that live music make people happier and live longer. I, therefore, do my best to go to concerts as frequently as possible - now and then together with by daughters. Otherwise, I enjoy walks or runs around the lake or in the park with my dog. 

City of current residence

Frederiksborg Gymnasium