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One in Four Men with Eating Disorders

Friday, January 30th, 2009 One in Four Men with Eating Disorders

It has been established that one in four men have eating disorders as reported by Daniel Martin of the Mail (27 01 09).

Statistically, some 2.7 million adults suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or a problem with compulsive eating - 6.4 per cent of the population, much higher than previously thought.

Moreover, charities have been shocked at the findings, because previous research had indicated that 1.1 million people had eating problems, 10 per cent of whom were male. Now by any standards this is a revelation.

It would be pertinent to scrutinise the evidence to offer clarity for a problem that appears to be growing and there is no pun intended within the context of this overview, this is clearly a very serious issue.

According to the chief executive of eating disorder charity Beat, Susan Ringwood, she states, ‘It is very worrying that so many men are suffering from eating disorders and that many of them are missing out on the support that the NHS can give them. These disorders can severely affect their lives, the lives of those around them - and can put their lives at risk.”

With reference to the latest NHS figures, there are over 700,000 men are registered with eating disorders.

Indeed last year the former deputy deputy prime minister John Prescott revealed he had been a sufferer of bulimia and Ringwood states, “John Prescott shows us that bulimia is not just a girl’s disease. Many men may not themselves realise they have a problem; they don’t know that the way they are feeling is a condition that they can get help for. Especially for boys it can be hard if they think they have a girl’s problem.”

Ringwood argues, ‘The NHS needs to be much more aware of this, and doctors should be mindful that cases might occur among groups that aren’t typical - men and older people. GPs are very poor at picking up the signs.

‘Men are much more likely than women to over-do it at the gym or go on obsessive long-distance runs as a way of losing weight.’

Women are still three times more likely to develop an eating disorder than their male counterparts figures suggest 9.2 per cent of women compared with 3.5 per cent of men.

More specifically, younger women are most likely to have a problem: one in five women aged 16 to 24, compared to just one in a hundred over the age of 75.

But more than four in five adults with disorders are not receiving any NHS help for their condition, the survey found and this is very significant.

Geographically there were also variations. Men in the north west were most likely to have an eating problem (4.8 per cent), while top for women was the east midlands (10.6 per cent).

Conservative health spokesman Anne Milton said: ‘These figures are shocking. We are failing to get across to young people today the dangers they face when they abuse food. At one end of the scale we have some frightening statistics on obesity and on the other end of the scale we have many people suffering from this tragic illness.

‘Anorexia takes a terrible toll on those who suffer from it and on their families and friends. This is yet another example of the Government dropping the ball on mental health issues.’

Indeed, as reported very recently on the (28 01 09) a potential Cambridge student, Alice Rae was found dead by her Doctor mother. Dr Rae was concerned that the NHS treatment her daughter received was unsatisfactory.

Interviewers asked thousands of adults a range of questions from the SCOFF test around their food behaviour to work out if they had a problem. If they answered ‘yes’ to at least two questions, they were defined as having an eating disorder.

In total, 4.2 per cent of men and 10.3 per cent of women said they had ‘lost control’ over how much they ate. Some 2 per cent of men and 4 per cent of women said they had made themselves sick because they felt too full.

Many others said food dominated their lives, or that it interfered with work, personal responsibilities or their social life.

The authors of the report said: ‘Men with eating disorders are a group that have been neglected in research, policy and clinical practice in this area, although recent research is beginning to redress this gap.’

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