Eating Disorders in Australia
Eating disorders in Australia appear to be on the increase.
A health survey carried out in South Australia in 1995, and then repeated in 2005, showed the number of people with an eating disorder doubled to almost 1 in 20 over the course of 10 years.
Head of psychiatry Professor Phillipa Hay from James Cook University said, “Eating is not something you can give up, you can’t abstain from eating like alcohol or illicit drugs. It’s very much a part of your social, interpersonal life and family life. People become very isolated."
The survey showed many sufferers of eating disorders are overweight or an average weight and have lived with the illness for several years. Numerous sufferers are in their 30s and older.
“The sort of stereotype of someone with an eating disorder as being a pre-pubescent female is not accurate; most people with an eating disorder are actually middle aged,” said Hay.
Dr Warren Ward, in charge of an eating disorders service at the Royal Brisbane Hospital was not surprised at the increase.
“You just have to look at the television shows that are on now compared to ten years ago. Extreme Makeover, the World’s Greatest Loser - I feel there’s a mass obsession with losing weight,” he said.
Hay warned that obesity is a major risk factor for an eating disorder, and doctors need to be aware of this association.