Eating disorders not just confined to teenagers, report finds

A new study shows the majority of callers to Bodywhys in 2015 concerned someone over the age of 36

The Samaritans, Ireland, suicide rate, annual report, support, Catherine Brogan

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There has been an increase in the number of older people suffering from eating disorders, according to a new report.

Figures contained in the Bodywhys Annual Report 2015 also show that last year there was a 10% increase in people using any of the support services provided by the organisation.

The eating disorders association has a range of services available to those affected by eating disorders, including groups, online groups, email support and a helpline.

Breakdown of how people contacted Bodywhys | Image: Bodywhys Annual Report 2015

In 2013 and 2014, where the age of the person with an eating disorder contacting the helpline was known, the majority of people were aged between 25-35 years.

The group reported a 9% increase in people aged 36-55 in 2015, and an 8% increase in people aged 56 or older.

Bodywhys has said that this means the majority of calls taken in 2015 concerned someone aged over 36 years of age.

Digital Trends

While the traditional helpline remained a preferred way of contacting Bodywhys, the report indicated a more general trend towards people using technology for help seeking.

Overall 58% of people contacted the organisation using an online service. The email support service showed the most significant increase in usage, with a 48% rise in 2015.

The email service also saw an increase in older callers, with 20% of contacts coming from people aged over 36.

Which eating disorders?

Anorexia continues to be one of the most common eating disorder among those contacting Bodywhys for support.

In 2015, 60% of contacts to the email support service related to anorexia, with 58% of helpline calls.

The same trend was seen for those attending online (44%) and face-to-face (36%) support groups.

Other eating disorders listed included bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED). Across all services, approximately 11.5% of support contacts related to BED.

Nearly half of all helpline callers and 44% of email contacts reported experiencing an eating disorder for over 10 years, and 51% of all helpline callers were not in any form of treatment.

Speaking about the report, Bodywhys Services Manager Harriet Parsons said: "In recent years, we have seen a change in the age profile of those who access our support services.

"This has continued in 2015 with a rise in contacts from people aged 36-55 and is further evidence that eating disorders are not confined to teenagers.

"An eating disorder is not something a person ‘chooses’ to do - it is a health crisis. It often develops over a period of time and has a significant effect on an individual’s physical and mental health.

"Our message to anyone who is living with an eating disorder is that it is not too late to seek support and that full recovery is possible."