Cases of eating disorders in pre-teen children have doubled in the last 10 years, according to new research. While the figures are alarming, experts say the increase could be due to more efficient diagnosis in the last decade.
The study, focusing on children in the UK and Ireland, was authored by Kings College London professors - researching children aged eight to 12. It estimates that there had been a rise from 1.5 per 100,000 children diagnoses with anorexia in 2006 to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2015. The children were diagnosed by psychiatrists in hospitals or specialist clinics.
However, Sarah Byford, health economics professor at KCL, was optimistic about the research findings. ‘This finding might simply be that we are getting better at identifying young people [with anorexia],’ she noted in the research.
That being said, she also warned that vulnerable children at risk of developing an eating disorder may be exposed to risk factors earlier than we thought given body image pressure and stress at school.
Such a conclusion wouldn’t be surprising to most women, given the fact many of us knew exactly how much we weighed in primary school. To look back know, it’s harrowing that any child would even remember the figure on a scale never mind feel shame for it when discussed at school.
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorder charity Beat, has since warned that there is something of a postcode lottery when it comes to health services prioritising eating disorder services.
‘Since 2016, substantial extra funding has been made available to the NHS in England for investment in specialist eating disorder services for under 18s, but not all commissioners and providers have prioritised these services sufficiently,’ he told The Guardian. ‘Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible and the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery.
For help and advice dealing with an eating disorder, contact Beat on 0808 801 0677 or visit their website here.