How many teens are affected?

We may be bombarded with statistics concerning childhood obesity, but the number of children suffering from eating disorders is also on the rise. According to government figures, the number of cases of children being admitted to hospital with eating disorders such as anorexia has increased by more than a third over the last 10 years, with 562 girls and 111 boys aged under 18 hospitalized in 2005/06.

And now, a study carried out by Finnish scientists claims 18 percent of school children admit to having eating problems – that’s almost a fifth of all teenagers. However the report (ii), published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, claims that anxiety is more to blame than body image problems.

According to the report, which quizzed 372 students aged between 15 and 17, the teenagers who suffered from anxiety early during their adolescence were 20 times more likely to have eating disorders than those who had not experienced earlier psychological problems. And those who were dissatisfied with the way they looked only had recurring eating problems if they suffered anxiety earlier in their adolescence too.

The researchers also discovered that girls were twice as likely to report eating problems on one occasion than boys, and five times more likely to have ongoing eating problems.

Meanwhile 77 percent of those who admitted having persistent eating problems said they were unhappy with their weight and 46 percent were unhappy with their appearance, compared with eight and 18 percent of those who ate normally. Yet 63 percent of the teens who admitted having eating problems were of normal weight – and 37 percent were actually underweight.

The teenagers who had persistent eating problems were also more likely to report having health problems such as abdominal pain, dizziness, fatigue, headache and insomnia than those without eating problems – that is, 70 percent compared to 40 percent.

Read the full article here.

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