The Eating Disorder Epidemic – Why Aren’t We Doing More to Prevent It?

The news continues to alarm me as multiple outlets from the world over report sharp increases in incidences of mental health issues and diagnosed eating disorders among adolescents. This week in Ontario it was reported that admissions to their teen eating disorders ward has jumped to 223% capacity, an increase of over 100% of what was reported in January. In fact, one of the heads of the eating disorders program there revealed that this is the worst and most dire situation that she has ever seen in over 30 years, no question.

Another finding by the University of Michigan reports significant increases in medical admissions among adolescents with existing or newly developed eating disorders during the pandemic. In fact, the hospitalizations in their hospital among children aged 10-23 for eating disorders this past year has more than doubled than what it was for the years of 2017-2019. Even more concerning however, is that the numbers may represent only a fraction of those with eating disorders affected by the pandemic as only those with severe illness that actually led to hospitalization were included in the count. Some figures suggest that as many as 77% of people with an eating disorder never receive treatment, 77%. That is huge!

England too is reporting a sharp rise in number of children that are seeking help for eating disorders as well as increasing struggles for them to access the help that they desperately need. The National Eating Disorders Association reported a 41% increase in messages to phone and online help lines in January 2021, as compared with January 2020. A recent study from the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that symptoms worsened across the board for people with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders nationwide since the pandemic began. This is both worrying and alarming as we have discussed the issues with eating disorder treatment and outcome.

I am personally hearing stories about more and more stories of young girls struggling with eating disorders every week.

With numbers so compelling I struggle to understand why we are not making prevention a clearer, more pressing, accessible priority.  Why are prevention programs so difficult to implement in our schools? Why aren’t we talking about this more for our educators and parents? Prevention programs have been both tested and proven to improve self-esteem, self-confidence, overall body positivity, measures of shape and body concerns, as well as reducing internalization of the thin-ideal, determinants of body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders overall.

Let’s talk to our schools, our educators, and our fellow moms and push the need for these critical, lifesaving programs! I am here to help. Message me anytime.

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