Covid has ‘heightened’ eating anxieties and disorders experts say

A group of MPs has called for government action to support those with eating disorders amid a rise in people seeking help during the pandemic.

Eating disorder charity Beat reported a 173% increase in demand for support between February 2020 and January 2021.

The government said it was “investing more each year” to help those affected.

NHS Digital data shows there were 21,794 hospital admissions for eating disorders in 2017-2020, a 32% increase on 2017-2018, with children accounting for almost a quarter.

The letter, addressed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said the government needed to ensure appropriate support for both the physical and mental impacts.

“Clearly, even before the recent public health crisis, demand for the specialist healthcare services related to eating disorders was outstripping capacity,” it said.

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“The public health crisis and rolling lockdown conditions have increased the risk of developing an eating disorder and aggravated the challenges faced by those who suffer with one.”

It asks for investment in research for future treatments and a consistent approach for all age ranges to provide the earliest possible support.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, said: “We have seen a massive increase in people contacting our helpline since the lockdown began, with many people saying that their eating disorder behaviours have worsened and others describing eating disorder behaviours emerging for the first time.

“It is vital that sufficient funding is provided to NHS eating disorder services to ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it in a timely manner, which is crucial in maximising the chance of recovery.”

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