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Screening for symptoms of eating disorders: reliability of the SCOFF screening tool with written compared to oral delivery.

OBJECTIVE: The validity of the SCOFF delivered orally as a screening tool for eating disorders has previously been established, but clinical screening for eating disorders also occurs via written format, for example, in occupational health settings. The objective was to compare responses to the SCOFF between verbal and written administration.

METHOD: In a volunteer group of nursing and midwifery students at a South London University SCOFF was delivered orally at interview and via written questionnaire. Order was allocated randomly with repeat administration interrupted by distraction questions.

RESULTS: There were 185 students who participated, providing 178 fully completed responses. Twenty subjects were male. There was overall agreement in the scores of 157 subjects (88.2%), providing a kappa coefficient of 0.811, with agreement in prediction of eating disorder for 167 (93.8%) and a kappa value of 0.824 (both p < 0.001). For 82 subjects administered the SCOFF verbally first followed by the written version, the kappa statistic was 0.752 (p < 0.001). For 96 subjects with SCOFF administered in reverse order (written form first), kappa was 0.862 (p < 0.001).

DISCUSSION: Results demonstrated overall good replicability of the SCOFF administered as a written questionnaire compared to oral interview. Two trends were noted. The first was towards higher scores with written versus oral delivery irrespective of order, possibly indicating enhanced disclosure via written format. The second was of less consistency where verbal preceded written responses. Altogether findings support use of the SCOFF where a concise, valid and reliable screening for eating disorders is required in written form.

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