Barbara McIntosh, Head of Children and Young People’s Programmes:
Tuesday 31st July saw the airing of a report by BBC’s Liz MacKean on the extent and nature of anorexia in our society. The report shows worrying statistics not only about the ages of people who are being diagnosed with this disease but also about the length of recovery time.
We welcome the report highlighting these issues. In recent years eating disorders have dropped out of the spotlight somewhat and as mentioned in the report are seen as an issue only affecting ‘middle class girls’. The report shows that this is clearly not the case and indicates that genetic factors may play a more significant role than previously thought. Professor Bryan Lask believes a part of the brain called the insula may be linked to the prevalence of anorexia.
The report calls on the need for early intervention rather than simply addressing the symptoms once diagnosed. This approach could not only diminish the long term side effects experienced by the individual, but may also prove a worthy investment for the future. It was estimated the cost of treatment is £1.26bn a year. This figure looks set to double over the next 20 years if changes to how we respond to and treat anorexia are not made now. Children under 10 are increasingly being diagnosed with eating disorders which will have significant impact on their development, quality of life and mental health as they grow up.
We believe treatment needs to go further to address the underlying emotional problems and not just issues relating to diet and health. Alongside this, a more open culture where children and young people can talk about their feelings and perceptions of body image, self-esteem and being emotionally healthy is vital. This goes hand in hand with ensuring that anorexia does not continue to affect our children at an increasingly younger age and effectively rob them of their childhood.
13 August 2012