The study conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle and published in the online edition of Journal of Eating Disorders, revealed that COVID-19 negatively affected nine out of 10 people with eating disorders
According to the study, disruptions to daily life as a result of lockdown and social distancing may have a detrimental impact on an individual’s wellbeing, with almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) of participants reporting that their symptoms had worsened as a result of the pandemic while over 30 per cent of participants stated that their symptoms were much worse.
Participants were aged between 16 and 65 years, with 121 participants identifying as female, 7 male and 1 participants preferring not to disclose their gender.
The study led by Dawn Branley-Bell suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound, negative impact upon individuals with experience of eating disorders.
“Eight key themes were generated: Disruption to the living situation, increased social isolation and reduced access to usual support networks, changes to physical activity rates, reduced access to healthcare services, disruption to routine and perceived control, changes to the relationship with food, increased exposure to triggering messages, and positive outcomes.
“The results suggest detrimental impacts on psychological wellbeing including decreased feelings of control, increased feelings of social isolation, increased rumination about disordered eating, and low feelings of social support,” the researchers said.
They concluded that individuals with eating disorders are at significant risk of negative impacts of the pandemic.
“There is a vital need for interventions to support this population. Inequalities in healthcare provision were identified, emphasising a need for a more cohesive approach to remote treatment across UK healthcare services.
“Positive aspects of technology use were identified but the results suggest a need to address and/or limit the potential for negative impacts of public messages around food and exercise behaviours, and to co-design technologies with end-users to facilitate effective treatment,” the researchers submitted.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviours and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become pre-occupied with food and their body weight.
“Eating disorders affect several million people at any given time, most often women between the ages of 12 and 35. There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder,” the association noted.