The COVID-19 pandemic – and the reaction to it – is having a “profound and negative” impact on individuals with eating disorders, research suggests.
Disruptions to daily life as a result of lockdown and social distancing is having a major effect on the estimated 1.25 million people in the UK who have an eating disorder, researchers say.
1.25 million people in the UKSource: Northumbria University
have an eating disorder
Almost nine out of ten (87%) of participants in a survey carried out by academics at Northumbria University, Newcastle, said their symptoms had worsened as a result of the pandemic.
Over 30% stated that their symptoms were “much worse”.
87% of people with eating disorders say their symptoms had worsened as a result of the climate around COVID-19
Researchers that carried out the study said the results show that the pandemic raises “additional, unique challenges for individuals with eating disorders”.
Beat, the eating disorder charity, said that while it is evident that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant effect on the global population, the research from Northumbria’s Department of Psychology, has the potential to influence future health service provisions, guidance and policies.
Dr Dawn Branley-Bell and Dr Catherine Talbot, who led the research, said their findings indicate detrimental impacts on psychological wellbeing including decreased feelings of control, increased feelings of social isolation, increased rumination about disordered eating, and low feelings of social support.
Over 30% of people with eating disorders say their their symptoms are “much worse” as a result of the COVID-19 climateSource: Northumbria University
One of the major challenges faced by those surveyed was a reduction in healthcare service provision or discrepancies in access to healthcare services, the researchers said.
They said: “Some reported being prematurely discharged from inpatient units, having treatment suspended or continuing to stay on a waiting list for treatment, and receiving limited post-diagnostic support.
“A reduction in service provision caused some participants to report feeling like a ‘burden’, an ‘inconvenience’, and ‘forgotten’ by the government and NHS.”
Beat has recorded an 81% increase in contact across all of its helplines. This includes a 125% rise in social media contact and a 115% surge in online group attendance.
The paper is published today (Monday) in the Journal of Eating Disorders and is available here.