Study highlights burden of eating disorders in South London

A new study has revealed that 7.5 per cent of adults in a group of people living in South London could be diagnosed as having an eating disorder.


Researchers from UCL and King’s College London screened a total of 1,698 adults for eating disorders.  145 of these people were then followed up to investigate how common eating disorders were, and how often they occurred alongside one or more additional mental health disorder.  The researchers then used these figures to estimate how common eating disorders might be across the entire group.


The subjects of the study are all participants in the South East London Community Health Study (SELCoH), which works with a group of randomly selected households in the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, tracking participants’ health and other factors over time. It is funded by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.


The researchers found that 3.6 per cent of the sample suffered from binge eating disorder, which is characterised by eating large amounts of food in short periods of time, experiencing a feeling of lack of control over the amount of food eaten, and usually followed by a sense of guilt or shame.  The percentage of people with binge eating disorder was higher than the estimated prevalence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined (around 2 per cent).


Across the whole group, people with any eating disorder were more likely to report binge drinking, drug use, suicidal thoughts and common mental health disorders, as well as to screen positive for personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the study found that only 15 per cent of participants with an eating disorder had received psychiatric treatment in the previous 12 months.


Professor Janet Treasure from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: ‘Our study suggests that more people could suffer from eating disorders than is commonly thought. Eating disorders other than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are common and yet it seems that people suffering from them do not reach mental health services.


‘It is crucial that health care professionals receive appropriate training so that they can correctly identify and refer people potentially suffering from diagnoses across the whole spectrum of eating disorders.’


The research is published in the journal Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology.


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By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 2 Dec 2015, 16:21 PM


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