Rise in eating disorders among men, say GPs

Rise in eating disorders among men, say GPs

By Nick Watts

Yesterday, the Royal College of General Practitioners urged GPs to look out for symptoms of eating disorders in Men after reporting a 66% rise in male admissions to hospital for eating disorders in just ten years.

Research from the charity beat estimate that around 1.6 million people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder, they also estimate that around 1 in 5 of those cases are male.

With the department of health only holding records on hospital admissions and not the number of cases it is hard to gauge the scale of the problem. Hospital admissions only account for a small proportion of eating disorder treatment in both sexes, which leads to the question of actual prevalence.

Diagnostic scales are often tailored for the diagnosis of females, relying on emaciation and the lack of menstrual cycles as key indicators of an eating disorder, the Royal College of General Practitioners have insisted that a change in the way eating disorders are diagnosed is crucial. Men are often misdiagnosed as suffering from depression or other mental health conditions, which further confuses the statistics around male sufferers.

Why has there been a rise?

The majority of the blame for the rise has been attributed to men becoming more concerned about their body image, the way they look and the pressures to aspire to body image ‘ideals’.

While it is clear that social pressures for men to aspire to body image ideals are rife in today’s society it is harmful to assume that this is the main reason for the rise in eating disorder cases.

Eating disorders are serious psychological conditions, which carry the highest mortality rates of any mental illness,the causes are often emotional as sufferers list main worries and issues such as bullying and difficult life circumstances. It is thought unlikely that body image alone can cause an eating disorder, but many experts in the field believe that body image can further complicate and fuel these serious disorders.

How accurate are the figures?

A 66% increase in hospital admissions cannot be disputed and cannot be taken lightly, but there is question as to whether there is a true increase in cases.

Men are feeling more compelled to come forward and seek help for eating disorders, this is still hampered by the huge stigma surrounding eating disorders, but men are gradually getting better at seeking treatment, largely due to the increase of awareness around the issue.

Could the rise in admissions be due to an increase in cases, but also the increase in men coming forward to seek help?

This is the question being asked by many professionals, to which an answer cannot be provided.

The 1 in 5 cases figure has often been disputed by individuals and organisations, with other studies estimating it to be higher, but due to the lack of research in the area of eating disorder that affect men it is again hard to get a clear picture of the problem.

The outcome

It is hoped that the release of this statement will lead to a change in the way eating disorders are seen by GP’s and diagnosed, which has to happen in order to reverse the current situation.

The stigma around eating disorders also needs to change, and organisations are hopeful that the increased profile and publicity surrounding eating disorders will help to change this, which will make it easier for men to come forward and seek help for eating disorders.


‘Men Get Eating Disorders Too’ is a UK based charity dedicated to representing and supporting the needs of men with by eating disorders.” Please visit http://www.mengetedtoo.co.uk


Nick Watts is an eating disorders and body image campaigner, who is currently a trustee for the leading organisation Men Get Eating Disorders Too. The issue of eating disorders in men is a personal one for him, having suffered from disordered eating himself. Interested in men’s health & mental health he is passionate about the lack of support available to men who have eating disorders, and committed to changing it. Nick also writes in several places about body image, eating disorders and mental health in both men and women.

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