Today it is announced that children account for 1 in 3 admissions to hospital for anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. That is not quite correct.
NHS statistics show that girls and young women remain the worst affected. Of 2,579 admissions to English hospitals in the year to June, 882 (32%) were patients under 18 and of those 31 (1%) were under 10 years of age including 11 boys (33% of this group); 367 (14% of all admissions ) were aged 10-14. In the group 15-19 years, 698 (93%) admissions are girls and 49 are boys
Does this point to any remarkable trends? I think the answer is "no".
Working with the figures, less than 1 in 6 hospital admissions are under 14 and it is only these I could stretch to call "children". Children tend to be admitted to hospital because they are new cases, have less body fat which puts them in more danger, and are under the control of carers.
We already know that among the very young a greater proportion of sufferers are boys and their problems are associated with anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. But the admission figures show that boy cases are very rare.
With 2 in 3 patients being adult, I expect that these are chronic cases with long standing problems and possible recurrent crises. The adult body can withstand and adapt to low weight better than the body of a young person and an adult can refuse to go into hospital despite the concerns of others.
I would be interested to know more about this adult group. What proportion are new cases and what proportion are chronic for example?
Only this week the Guardian ran a piece headlined "The new anorexics: big increase in eating disorders in women after the age of 30". Experts link these adult onset eating disoders in women in their 30s, 40s and even up to their 60s to feeling under pressure to look young because of exposure to the age defying older females in the media like Madonna and Sharon Stone.
(If I had Sharon's money I would look pretty young as well!)
I think that we are all guessing about the numbers and the reasons. Personally, I think that eating disorders are more likely to arise in someone who already had problems when she was young. But I would like to know more.
If you have had a NEW eating disorder in your adult life please get in touch with me. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story.