The number of boys being treated in hospital for eating disorders is at an all-time high, the latest data from NHS digital suggests.
Although there are still more girls than boys treated for eating disorders in England, Scotland and Wales, the number of boys aged five-19 treated has doubled from 235 in 2010 to 466 in 2018.
In the past year, the number of boys being admitted to hospital increased by 18.5 per cent, compared to an increase of 12 per cent for girls, according to the BBC.
The data is part of a large-scale NHS review of mental health disorders among children, which included information from 9,117 children and young people, and their parents or teachers. One in eight five-19 year olds had a mental disorder in 2017, the equivalent of three in every classroom of 24.
“In the boys’ world, we are decades behind what has happened with girls and young women when it comes to the way they view their bodies,” he said. “Many parents may have conversations with their daughters about the impact of yo-yo dieting or similar, whereas very few will have a conversation with boys.”
He said talking about images of male bodies in the media can be one way to approach the topic.
“If you’re walking past a huge billboard and someone with a ripped six pack is on it, ask them what they think of the image,” he suggested. “They might say what it reminds them of, and you would say: ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t look like many other men’.
“The media disproportionately creates unrealistic body types and there is this base assumption that what the media puts out is something that can be obtained. Point out the variation in mens’ bodies. Allow young boys to talk about it and allow them to have time to voice their understanding about why they think these bodies are aspirational.”
“Tell him how he makes you laugh, or what a good listener he is, or celebrate his efforts on a project,” she advised. “So he knows his value is tied up in more than the number of likes on his last selfie.”
For More Information:
If you are worried your child may have an eating disorder:
- YoungMinds have a free helpful for confidential and expert advice. Call 0808 802 5544.
- Speak to your GP, who can advise about mental health services like CAMHS [Child Adolescent Mental Health Services].
- B-eat is the UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders. See their support services here.