Covid eating disorder rise highlighted by Norwich charity

A person using a set of weighing scales. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Norwich-based charity Beat has seen a surge in eating disorder helpline contact during the pandemic - Credit: PA

A Norwich-based eating disorder charity has seen a "huge increase" in people contacting helpline services during the coronavirus pandemic.

During March this year, demand for Beat's services was a staggering 302pc higher than what it was in February 2020, which was described as the charity's last "normal" month. 

A total of 100,000 support sessions have been delivered in the past year by the UK charity, which has a head office located on Rosary Road in Norwich. 

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity based in Norwich. Picture: Beat

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity based in Norwich. Picture: Beat - Credit: Beat

The helpline services include webchats, emails, social media and online support groups.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs for Beat, said: "We know the pandemic has been particularly difficult for people affected by eating disorders, with demand for our helpline soaring by 302pc since it began.

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"It is not surprising, as those affected and their families have had to cope with extreme changes to their daily routines, support networks and care plans, all while also dealing with the additional stress the pandemic has brought."

Mr Quinn believes the NHS and government must do more to ensure services have the funding and resources they need to offer treatment to everyone who requires help.

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He also said all healthcare professionals should have the appropriate training resources to recognise an eating disorder and to sensitively support their patient into treatment. 

NHS Digital data shows there were 21,794 hospital admissions for eating disorders in 2017-2020, a 32pc increase from 2017-2018.

The government has said it provided the largest funding increase in NHS history to expand and transform mental health services, with an additional £2.3bn a year by 2023/24.

It comes as Beat estimates 1.25m people in the UK have an eating disorder, saying the condition can affect anyone at any time.

However, girls and young women aged 12-20 are most at risk, while studies suggest up to 25pc of people with eating disorders could be male. 

Candles burning during the service of dedication to lives lost to eating disorders at Norwich Cathed

Candles burning during a dedication to lives lost to eating disorders at Norwich Cathedral in 2014. Picture: Bill Smith

The causes of eating disorders are complex, but include a mix of genetic, biological and cultural factors. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 

Mr Quinn added: "We would encourage anyone concerned they or someone they know may have an eating disorder to reach out for help, and Beat offers a number of services and resources to support people in getting the treatment they need."

Beat's helpline is available on 0808 8010677. Visit for all the helpline services. 

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