Size zero epidemic as hospitals face huge rise in patients with eating disorders
By ANDREW LEVY
7th January 2008
Some doctors are blaming the fashion industry for the rise in so-called size zero patients
The number of patients needing hospital treatment for eating disorders has soared, it has emerged.
The findings are sure to renew concerns about the effect "size zero" models and celebrities are having on the body image of many youngsters.
Official statistics from Hospital Episode Statistics, which records data on Health Service wards, show eating disorders have become so widespread they are putting serious pressure on the number of beds available to other patients.
Last year, 84,377 bed days were taken up by those suffering from eating disorders - the equivalent to about 232 beds a day - up from 51,878 in 2002.
Some 1,484 patients with anorexia were admitted to wards in 2006/7 compared with 1,338 the previous year, an increase of 11 per cent.
While the average age of sufferers was 24, under-15s made up a fifth of the total, 25 per cent more than 2005/6.
The findings also reveal that NHS hospital admissions for bulimia increased 9 per cent to 150.
Experts believe the true figures are likely to be much higher, however, because they do not include those patients who have not sought medical treatment.
A spokesman for Beat, an eating disorder charity that has seen a 25 per cent increase in calls in the past year, said: "These people are very vulnerable and the size zero images are certainly a contributory factor.
"We are delighted the data is being seen so we can begin to see the extent of the problem but we know it doesn't cover the whole picture."
Last year the Government announced it had given a multimillion-pound grant to the Institute of Psychiatry to research eating disorders after it emerged there had been a 40 per cent surge in anorexia since 1990.
A report by the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, also released last year, found 206 children under 13 had been suffering from eating disorders in a 13-month period to April 2006. One was just eight years old.
The HES statistics also show a worrying rise in the number of men suffering from eating disorders. Last year, 137 needed treatment for anorexia, up from 83 in 2002/3.
In the past two years, 42 men were admitted to hospitals for bulimia, more than three times the number between 2002 and 2005.
To combat the problem, London Fashion Week was urged last year to consider forcing models to present medical certificates to prove they did not have eating disorders.
The idea was among 14 nonbinding suggestions in the Model Health Inquiry report.
The investigation was launched after concerns about the use of "size zero" women - the equivalent of a UK size four - and the deaths of two South American models.