We investigated the 2-year course and putative predictors of outcome of 87 young community women with common eating disorders (n = 59, 68% with Eating Disorder not Otherwise Specified) following a health literacy (informational) intervention. Participants were recruited in 3-phases: community survey, interview and then invitation to a longitudinal study. The health literacy intervention was provided randomly to half participants at baseline and half at 1 year. Eating disorder symptoms and mental health related quality of life (MHQoL), general psychological function, help-seeking, and defence style were assessed at baseline, and after 2 years by questionnaire. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to identify features predictive of eating disorder symptom levels and MHQoL. Eating disorder psychopathology remained high and MHQoL remained poor. In the multivariate models, a higher baseline level of immature defence style significantly predicted higher levels of eating disorder symptoms, poorer MHQoL and more disability as measured by ‘days out of role’. In addition, higher educational attainment, baseline general psychological disturbance, lower BMI and having main work outside the home were associated with poorer MHQoL. Women with common eating disorders followed to 2 years continued to be highly symptomatic and have poor quality of life. Psychological features important to outcome included an immature coping style and higher general psychological distress. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.