Children learn (unhealthy) mainstream attitudes towards food and weight at a very young age. The number of children younger than 12 entering the hospital for eating disorders increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2006, according to a new report suggesting eating disorders for this age group are on the rise.
In fact, the report reveals eating disorders now account for more than 4 percent of all childhood hospitalizations.
The new report summarizes data from 200 recent research studies that examined eating disorders.
Since eating disorders will impact a child’s entire health, the report recommends that pediatricians should monitor patients for medical or nutritional problems, and ensure patients receive appropriate treatment and nutritional intervention.
It is estimated that 0.5 percent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia nervosa, and 1 percent to 2 percent meet criteria for bulimia nervosa.
There is also an increasing recognition of eating disorders in males, which now represent up to 10 percent of all cases of eating disorders, as well as in children of younger ages.
According to a 2002 survey, 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours.
Thirty-seven percent of girls in grade nine and 40% in grade ten perceived themselves as too fat. Even among students of normal-weight (based on BMI), 19% believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to lose weight.
In a survey of adolescents in grades 7-12, 30% of girls and 25% of boys reported teasing by peers about their weight. Such teasing has been found to persist in the home as well - 29% of girls and 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member about their weight.
Body-based teasing can have a serious impact on girls’ attitudes and behaviours. According to one study, girls who reported teasing by family members were 1.5 times more likely to engage in binge-eating and extreme weight control behaviours five years later.
Because of the guilt and consequent secretiveness of eating disorders (esp. bulimia and binge-eating) it is likely that many instances go unreported. Thus a higher incidence of eating disorders is almost certain.
According to studies into diet, weight loss and body shape, many individuals feel dissatisfied with their body shape, and develop sub-clinical / borderline eating disorder attitudes and behaviors. For example, 80 per cent of American women claim to be dissatisfied with their appearance and shape, and 1 in 2 American women are on a weight loss diet. The prevailing standards of body weight and shape, as revealed in the use of abnormally thin models in the media, continue to emphasize the idea that "thin is beautiful" and (one suspects) only make things worse for adolescents and adults with borderline anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders.