Nine out of 10 people with eating disorders have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, according to a new study.
Researchers found the COVID-19 crisis created additional challenges for individuals with eating disorders.
Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, reports that 1.25 million people in the UK are living with an eating disorder.
But until now, little research had been carried out into the impact of the pandemic. The study follows calls for investigations into the mental health consequences of the pandemic.
During the early stages of the lockdown, the research team – based at Northumbria University – surveyed a number of individuals who were experiencing, or were in recovery from, an eating disorder.
And the findings suggest lockdown had a detrimental impact on the participants’ wellbeing. For example, 87% reported their symptoms had worsened due to the pandemic.
Additionally, more than 30% of participants stated their symptoms were much worse.
The results suggest the group experienced increased feelings of social isolation, decreased feelings of control and low feelings of social support.
One of the key obstacles faced is the reduced healthcare service provision as a result of COVID-19. Some participants reported premature dismissal from inpatient units, treatment suspensions and a lack of post-diagnostic support.
Researchers warn that the consequences of support access troubles during the pandemic could be significant and lead to worsened conditions which, in some cases, could prove fatal.
Beat reports an 81% increase in contact across its helpline channels, including a 125% rise in social media contact. It also experienced a 115% spike in online group attendance.
Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external affairs, said: ‘We have seen first-hand the devastating impact the pandemic has had on those suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders and their loved ones.
‘More and more people are reaching out to our helpline services, and we are prepared to support anyone in need at this time.’
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