The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.
Eating disorders among young girls dramatically escalated during the pandemic, a new study reveals. Researchers in the United Kingdom uncovered a 42-percent increase in diagnoses among 13 to 16-year-olds during the health crisis. There was also a 38-percent rise in cases of self-harm within the same two-year period.
This trend was also observed among 17 to 19-year-olds, albeit to a lesser extent, adding to mounting evidence linking lockdowns to the worsening mental health of adolescents. While the precise causes remain uncertain, the study’s lead author, Alex Trafford, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, emphasizes the importance of early identification of mental health difficulties among young people and timely access to treatment in order to prevent the exacerbation of existing conditions.
Trafford’s team analyzed data from 1,881 general practices across the U.K., including over nine million individuals between 10 and 24 years-old. They found that the observed incidence of eating disorder diagnoses in girls was significantly higher than expected based on previous trends.
This increase was largely attributable to a rise in cases among 13 to 16-year-olds, and to a lesser extent, among 17 to 19-year-olds. The observed incidence of self-harm in girls between 13 and 16 also exceeded expectations.
The team compared the actual rates of documented diagnoses during the pandemic with projected rates based on data from 2010 to 2020, assuming the pandemic had not occurred, from March 2020 to March 2022. They observed 3,862 cases of eating disorders and 9,174 cases of self-harm among 13 to 16-year-old girls, significantly higher than the projected numbers of 2,713 and 6,631 respectively.
Trafford highlights the surge in eating disorders and self-harm among teenage girls as a long-term consequence of the pandemic that demands attention.
The study was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.