Data from the NHS has revealed that the number of adult men being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder has risen by 70% over the past six years. This means that the number of men being hospitalised for eating disorders is now increasing at the same rate as it is for women.
Dr William Rhys Jones from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ eating disorder facility commented:
“Pressure for body perfection is on the rise for men of all ages, which is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Images of unhealthy male body ideals in the media place unnecessary pressure on vulnerable people who strive for acceptance through the way they look.”
While eating disorders are often associated with young teenagers, the latest NHS data disputes this notion. It found that the rate of increase was higher amongst older men, at 70% for those aged between 41 and 60. There was a 67% increase in men aged 26-40 and a 63% rise in those aged between 19 and 25.
The same pattern was noted among women with a 61% increase in those aged between 19 and 25 and a 76% rise in middle-aged women.
Medical leaders and health experts are putting the growing number down to the increasing amount of pressure we’re facing from popular culture and social media. It is also thought that more awareness about eating disorders and the acceptance of coming forward about one is encouraging life-long sufferers to open up about their issues.
What are the warning signs for eating disorders?
Speaking about the pressures we’re facing as a result of modern technologies, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has called for schools, universities and employers to be more aware of the danger signs. She said:
“These can include excessive dieting or daily trips to the gym, eating large amounts of food, the inappropriate use of laxatives and obsessions around weight and appearance.”
She did, however, highlight that positive steps are being made towards increasing awareness that both men and women are susceptible to suffering from eating disorders. She continued:
“Increased awareness among sufferers and health professionals has likely meant that men are starting to recognise their symptoms more and are being diagnosed more, meaning that they are more likely to be referred to eating disorder services.”
While the number of men being hospitalised for eating disorders is concerning, Tom Quinn, the director of external affairs at the eating disorder charity, Beat, has highlighted that it’s possible that the rise does in fact indicate an increasing awareness that these illnesses affect people regardless of their gender.
There is still a long way to go to ensure that all sufferers get the treatment they need as quickly as possible, especially when it comes to men. The misconception surrounding male eating disorders is slowly lifting but there is a continued lack of understanding and sometimes even sympathy for men suffering with eating disorders. This then creates barriers stopping people from getting the help they need in order to recover. Dr William Rhys Jones continued:
“We must continue to address the ongoing gender bias around eating disorders so every man who is suffering feels comfortable to get the help when they need it.”
If you think that you or someone you know may be suffering with an eating disorder, please feel free to contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be more than happy to help. You can also visit our Eating Disorder Treatment page for more information about the signs, symptoms are treatments which are available.