The Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, has said that she is worried about a link between eating disorders in young people and social media usage.
Butler was speaking in Dublin on Thursday the 14th of October at the launch of the four-year organisational strategy of youth service Jigsaw.
“We have seen a spike in the number of young people who are seeking supports, especially in relation to eating disorders. Last year, for example, 487 young people had to be admitted to an inpatient unit in relation to eating
Since the beginning of Covid-19, the prevalence of eating disorders has become a greater concern in Ireland. The Irish Medical Journal (2021) recently reported a 66% increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders in 2020, compared to 2019.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), adult mental health services, and paediatric hospitals have all reported an increase in numbers of referrals for eating disorders and severity of all types of eating disorders- anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
BodyWhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, has reported that there has been a significant increase in people seeking their services, with a 110% increase in users of the online support group for those experiencing an eating disorder between March- November 2020, and a 98% increase in participation in their Peer Led
Resilience (PiLaR) programme for families and supporters, compared to 2019.
Ms Butler also highlights the lack of services that are in place for people that are suffering with an eating disorder, calling it “ A bit of a postcode lottery” in terms of access to services.
Dr Martin Daly, a former president of the Irish Medical Organisation, says anorexia is a devastating illness. The disorder can cause serious physical and psychological harm to the sufferer and Dr Daly believes thateating disorders are one of the biggest challenge to the medical system at this time.
He says, “A number of studies have found that up to one-third of adolescent girls believe they are overweight and up to 60% are trying to lose weight”.
Dr Daly says there are many causes of anorexia including social media. He said the pursuit of body perfection, often triggered by social media, has contributed to anorexia, and eating disorders.
“It is not the only trigger; it is a complex illness and there are many triggers. Control being one of them, distorted body image being another and obviously this is taken to an extreme in the case of people who suffer from anorexia.”