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Care for children with eating disorders needed

1st April 2011

A major study of the scale of eating disorders in children in the UK has found there is an urgent need for services to recognise and treat eating disorders in young children.

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The study of UK and Irish data, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests three in every 100,000 children under the age of 13 have an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia, including children as young as six.

Researchers from University College London focussed on data between March 2005 and May 2006 and identified 208 cases of eating disorders in children between five and 13, with more than 80% of cases being in girls.

Dr Dasha Nicholls, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said a major problem was that many eating disorder services were aimed specifically at adolescents, despite the significant developmental differences between children and adolescents and adults.

She said: “Our study shows there is an urgent need to consider the needs of children with eating disorders separately and not simply lower the age range of existing adolescent services.”

The charity Beat welcomed the research and backed the call for improved diagnosis and specialist treatment for young people.

A spokesperson said: “Although there is first class treatment available in this country for adolescents and adults with eating disorders, there is very little for those under the age of 13.

“The earlier the intervention, the better the long term prognosis for a full recovery to avoid these young lives being blighted or even lost to these serious conditions.”

 

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