Eating Disorders in men: Do you know the facts?

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Male eating disorders have been in the news today when a recent B-eat campaign was pulled after receiving a number of complaints from male sufferers.  Whilst the campaign may have been received badly, its aim – to increase awareness of male eating disorders and to encourage men to seek help – is spot on.

With this in mind we thought we’d cover a few of the known facts about eating disorders in men.

How many men are affected by eating disorders in the UK?

In 2004 a Department of Health survey suggested that there were around 180,000 men and boys with eating disorders in the UK.  This was just over 10% of the total cases of eating disorders in the UK which stood at around 1.6 million.  It is thought that only a quarter of men experiencing disordered eating will seek treatment.  Given that these DoH statistics were based mainly on the number of individuals receiving specialist treatment at that time, it is very likely that the number of people suffering from an eating disorder in the UK, and in turn the number of men suffering from an eating disorder, was actually considerably higher. 

These figures are now 10 years out of date.  Rates of eating disorders seem to be on the increase in the UK so it is likely that the number of men suffering from an eating disorder would  now be a lot higher.  Indeed, a 2007 NHS survey found that 6.4 per cent of adults reported having a problem with food.  A quarter of this figure were men.  The Royal College of Practitioners has also recently indicated a 66% rise of male hospital admissions of men with eating disorders.  These more recent studies suggest that the previously held ‘1 in 10’ figure should actually be around ‘1 in 4’.  This may be due to increasing rates of eating disorders in men, or due to more men starting to seek treatment for their eating difficulties.

What does this mean?

Whilst eating disorders may still be more common in women, there seems to be a much higher percentage of men with eating disorders than previously thought.  It is crucial that eating disorders are not seen as a female disorder – this view only contributes to the difficulties men may have in talking about their difficulties, accessing appropriate treatment and having their disorder recognised by others.

* The facts in this article are based on current available literature and research – given the absence of research in this area we  hope that continued research will continue to add to our knowledge.

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