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Research by the UCL shows increase of eating disorders in men and boys in the UK

Research published this week has found that eating disorders in boys and men has increased at a significant rate.

To date, very few studies have investigated the incidence of eating disorders and there are still no exact figures collated across the country. MGEDT and other eating disorders charities welcome the research and as it highlights the potential gaps and changes needed in service provision.

The research by Dr Nadia Micali ran from 2000 to 2009 and has shown that there has been a big jump in the number of new cases of eating disorders from 32.3 per 100,000 population aged between 10 and 49 years in 2000 to 37.2 new cases per 100,000 population in 2009.

Interestingly the study also showed us the fact that the areas which have had the highest increase included girls aged 15 to 19 and boys aged 10 to 14.

Many of the new cases were ‘eating disorders not otherwise specified’ (EDNOS) – which meet most, but not, all of the criteria associated with anorexia or bulimia. The research found a 60 per cent increase in women with this type of disorder and a 24 per cent increase among men.

Dr Nadia Micali, of the University College London’s Institute for Child Health, said: “There is a clear increase in men and women being diagnosed with eating disorders Mostly we see new diagnoses of the EDNOS category, reflecting people who have an illness as severe as anorexia or bulimia, but who don’t have symptoms as frequently as the official threshold. For example they may use strategies for weight loss-such as fasting or self-induced vomiting less than twice a week.”

It should be stressed these people, who are understudied, are extremely ill. What we are currently calling EDNOS will now be diagnosed as full cases of anorexia or bulimia.”

Binge eating has not previously been classified on its own, but last week the latest edition of the psychiatrists’ manual of mental health disorders made it a new eating disorder.

Sam Thomas, MGEDT Founder and Director, added: “It’s by no means surprising that there is a reported increase in eating disorder sufferers among boys and men. At MGEDT it is promising that more males and getting diagnosed as this suggests they are feeling more able to seek help from their GP.

Increased awareness by in GPs plays a part, which means more males are able to recognise their symptoms.

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However we suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg with many sufferers isolated and still feel unable to access support.”

What’s most worrying about the results of this study is that eating disorders is the increasing number of boys becoming affected by eating disorders.

Dr Micali said the problem in boys was fast-growing as they fell prey to pressures of modern lifestyle and culture. “Modern society exerts pressure for children and young people to be perfect, to look perfect and be high achievers,’ she said. ‘Boys are starting to suffer as girls did in the past. It’s a mix of genes and environment, nature and nurture, but the reality is we don’t know enough about what causes eating disorders yet.”

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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