Indian Parents, Experts Concerned as UK Study Shows Increase in Eating Disorders Among Teenage Girls

Indian Parents, Experts Concerned as UK Study Shows Increase in Eating Disorders Among Teenage Girls

A recent study from the United Kingdom (UK) that found a large-scale rise in eating disorder diagnoses and self-harm episodes among teenage girls since Covid-19 pandemic has found an echo closer home, as parents and experts share their concerns about unhealthy lifestyle prevalent among young girls.

Musab Qazi Pushpita ChatterjeeUpdated: Thursday, June 22, 2023, 12:44 AM IST
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Mumbai: A recent study from the United Kingdom (UK) that found a large-scale rise in eating disorder diagnoses and self-harm episodes among teenage girls since Covid-19 pandemic has found an echo closer home, as parents and experts share their concerns about unhealthy lifestyle prevalent among young girls.

The study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, is based on analysis of electronic health records of over 9 million patients aged 10 to 24 years between 2010 and 2022 in the UK showed that since March 2020, eating disorders were 42% higher than would be expected based on previous trends for females aged 13-16, and 32% higher for those aged 17-19.

The increase in the incidence of self-harm was also greatest among females aged 13-16, with the number of episodes being 38 per cent greater than expected. In contrast, there was no evidence of an increase in self-harm incidence in females in the other age groups and no increase in rates of eating disorders or self-harm was observed in males.

Mononeeta Chatterjee, the parent of a 16-year-old girl from Delhi, said after the pandemic, her daughter had become intolerant to gluten and had to consult a dietician to correct the disorder. "Various factors like stress, boredom and irregularity of daily routine were responsible for binge eating or comfort eating followed by feeling of guilt and eventually fasting or minimal eating. Also, lack of stimuli or physical activity led to feelings of low self-esteem and emotional meltdowns," she said.

Delhi-based Psychiatrist Dr Shashank said that cases related to eating disorders tend to be underreported. 'Female teenagers anyways are under a lot of stress, as they try to maintain a good body image. Covid was definitely an added mental stress and is very likely to have exacerbated their anxiety. As the teenage girls were locked in during Covid, they, they ate more like all of us. Sugary food, which gives a rush of dopamine, can lead to weight gain, leading to a possible rise in these cases," he said.

The experts suggest that we need to prioritise mental health and guide youngsters about a healthier lifestyle in order to avoid such instances. "The pandemic has not only impacted our physical health, but also our mental health, and unfortunately, teenage girls seem to be bearing the brunt of this burden. We must prioritise providing resources and support to these vulnerable individuals who are struggling with eating disorders and self-harm, and work towards creating a society that values and prioritises mental health," said Suraj Dabas, a teacher at Mayo College Girls' School, Ajmer.

"The main phenomenon that we focus on is to guide the child about food and food habits to dispel any myths they have and guide them to healthier eating habits. Usually, a lot of these girls tend to exercise excessively. So we clear out misconceptions regarding that too," said Dr Shashank.

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