Researchers have found the Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound, negative impact on nine out of 10 people with experience of eating disorders.
According to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, approximately 1.25 million people in the UK alone have an eating disorder. Until now, little was known about the impact of the pandemic on this population.
While it is evident that the Covid-19 outbreak is having a significant effect on the global population, the study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders shows that the pandemic raises additional, unique challenges for individuals with eating disorders.
During the early stages of the pandemic lockdown, Dr Dawn Branley-Bell and Dr Catherine Talbot from the Northumbria University in the UK, surveyed individuals across the country who are currently experiencing, or in recovery from, an eating disorder.
The results suggest that disruptions to daily life as a result of lockdown and social distancing may have a detrimental impact on an individual’s wellbeing, with almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) of participants reporting that their symptoms had worsened as a result of the pandemic.
According to the researchers, over 30 per cent stated that their symptoms were much worse.
Findings indicate detrimental impacts on psychological wellbeing including decreased feelings of control, increased feelings of social isolation, increased rumination about disordered eating, and low feelings of social support.
Through analysis of participants’ responses, researchers found that the negative effects may be due to changes to individuals: regular routine, living situation, time spent with friends and family, access to treatment, engagement in physical activity, relationship with food and use of technology.
One of the major challenges faced by those surveyed was a reduction in healthcare service provision or discrepancies in access to healthcare services. Some reported being prematurely discharged from inpatient units, having treatment suspended or continuing to
The research team warns that the consequences of not being able to access professional eating disorder treatment during the pandemic could be severe, causing some peoples’ conditions to become much worse and, in some cases, could prove fatal.
“Our findings highlight that we must not underestimate the longevity of the impact of the pandemic. Individuals with experience of eating disorders will likely experience a long-term effect on their symptoms and recovery,” Branley-Bell said.