Increase in Self-harm and Eating Disorders Among Adolescent Girls

In Education

According to a research team, there has been a massive increase in eating disorders identified so far and more instances of self-harm. This has been the case in the UK amongst teenage girls since the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was a collaboration between institutions such as the University of Exeter and the University of Manchester.

Findings of the study

An examination of the General Practitioners in the UK concentrating on young individuals aged 10 up to 24 from 2010 to 2022 revealed a significant increase in eating disorders by 42% compared to former trends. This was the case for teenage girls ages 13 to 16. For ages 17 to 19, it was 32% higher, all happening from March 2020.

Instances of self-infliction were greater in the age group 13 to 16, with an increase of 38%. On the other hand, other female age groups lacked proof of an increment. Moreover, men had no increment in self-harm and eating disorders.

Comparison of data

A decade ago, before the pandemic shook the world, eating disorders diagnosed were frequent in females. This was the case in females from wealthy backgrounds compared to those from deprived communities. Following March 2020, females from affluent backgrounds have an increment of 52%, while females from poor communities have a 22% increment.

In the case of self-harm, deprived communities had a more significant increment than less deprived ones in the decade before the pandemic. However, the gap has lessened as of March 2020.

Eating disorders and self-harm are adaptive mechanisms showcasing psychological distress. Doctor Pearl Mok, the senior study author, says the rise in eating disorders and self-infliction is attributed to several issues, such as anxiety and toxic social media traits. He explains further how the study is comprehensive and might have left out other instances of self-infliction. This means the increment or rate of increase could be understated in the research. On the other hand, it could be a sign of a distinct pattern not being captured.

Professor Chew-Graham, another co-investigator of the study, says it is crucial to identify mental health issues early enough in young individuals by clinicians to give punctual treatment. More so, mental wellness services should cater to the rising demand.

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