The Health Survey for England found that 19% of women aged sixteen and over screened positive for a possible eating disorder when questioned on their relationship with food, in 2019.
Around one in eight men also screened positive for a possible eating disorder in the same timeframe.
For women, the prevalence was highest amongst those aged under 35 (28% of those aged between 16 and 24, and 27% of those aged between 25 and 34), before declining in line with age.
For men, the prevalence was highest among those aged between 25 and 34 (19%), before also declining in line with age.
Andrew Radford, chief executive of eating disorder charity, Beat, said stronger action is needed to ensure people get the support and treatment they need.
‘These figures are shocking and highlight that eating disorders may be an even bigger issue than previously thought.
‘They clearly show that stronger action is needed to ensure everyone with, or at risk of, an eating disorder gets the support and treatment they need.
‘The additional government funding being provided for eating disorder services is very welcome news, but in children’s services, it appears to be too often diverted elsewhere, while for adults the amount simply needs to be increased and released more quickly.
‘Workforce planning must also be stepped up so that eating disorder services can recruit the professionals they need to deal with this rising demand.
‘The finding that people living with obesity are more likely to be affected by an eating disorder raises two important points. Firstly, the government must change tack to ensure its anti-obesity campaigns do not increase the risk to people with eating disorders.
‘And secondly, urgent action is needed to reverse the chronic underfunding – and in some cases the total absence – of binge eating disorder services.
‘It is essential that services are significantly expanded so that anyone affected, from any diagnosis, can get the help they need at the very earliest opportunity.’
The Health Survey for England, 2019 monitors trends in the nation’s health and surveyed 8,205 adults and 2,095 children about a variety of topics including carers, obesity, smoking, and drinking.
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