Research reveals the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on those with eating disorders.
While it is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant effect on the global population, people with eating disorders in particular have been profoundly and negatively impacted, new research shows.
According to the study conducted by academics at Northumbria University, Newcastle — the results of which are published in the Journal of Eating Disorders — disruptions to daily life and social distancing measures are having a major effect on the estimated 1.25 million people in the UK who have an eating disorder.
Indeed, the survey results reveal that nearly nine out of 10 (87%) respondents said their eating disorder symptoms had worsened as a result of the pandemic, with 30% saying their symptoms had become “much worse”.
‘Additional, unique challenges’
The researchers who carried out the study say the coronavirus pandemic has created “additional, unique challenges for individuals with eating disorders”.
As a result of lockdown and social distancing, individuals with eating disorders have experienced many disruptions to their daily life, which has had a negative impact on their wellbeing. Specifically, changes to people’s regular routine, living situation, time spent with friends and family, access to treatment, engagement in physical activity, relationship with food and use of technology have all had a negative effect.
Furthermore, individuals with eating disorders have seen their psychological wellbeing detrimentally impacted by decreased feelings of control, increased feelings of social isolation, increased rumination about disordered eating, and low feelings of social support.
Charity says more people now reaching out for support
Eating disorder charity Beat says it has witnessed a significant increase (81%) in calls across all its support channels during the pandemic. This includes a 125% rise in social media contact and a 115% surge in online group attendance.
Speaking about the findings of the research, Beat said the results have the potential to influence future health service provisions, guidance and policies.
Tom Quinn, Beat’s Director of External Affairs, said: “We have seen first-hand the devastating impact the pandemic has had on those suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders and their loved ones. More and more people are reaching out to our Helpline services, and we are prepared to support anyone in need at this time.”
The research team that carried out the study said the consequences of not being able to access professional eating disorder treatment during the pandemic could be severe. Some people’s conditions could become much worse and, in some cases, could end up being fatal.
Media coverage and social media posts were also cited as a source of anxiety due to the general public’s preoccupation with food, weight gain and exercise.
The effect of lockdown on people suffering with eating disorders has clearly had a huge impact. I can only imagine at the beginning of lockdown when only essential shopping was allowed, this exacerbated symptoms and the control part of the disorder was hugely affected.
Having a sibling that has suffered with an eating disorder, I can fully understand the implication of our present situation. Thankfully, there are some brilliant charities out there that can help people in their time of need.
Rebekah has worked for Premier Choice Group since 2009, and today develops our consumer client base. Working within a strong team of consultants, Rebekah maintains a high service level set out for our clients whilst building and retaining sound relationships throughout the company’s portfolio.