InsideOut Institute research revealed that 88 percent of study participants experienced an increase in body image concerns, while 74 percent increased their food restrictions and diets.
The research involved 1,723 people with eating disorder symptoms who were examined through the first major COVID-19 wave in 2020.
The research also found that 66 percent of participants increased their overeating, 49 percent over-exercised, and 25 percent increased their participation in self-induced vomiting.
Mental Health Commission CEO Christine Morgan said there has been “an explosion in eating disorders”.
“And most worryingly, with early-onset eating disorders, our little ones get them much earlier,” she said
“The estimate we worked on a few years ago is that over a million Australians have eating disorders, even though not a million have been diagnosed or treated.
“I actually think that number has increased significantly … we’re talking about far more than a million Australians.”
Leading researcher Dr. Jane Miskovic-Wheatley said the increase in these symptoms was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning a change in daily routines, lack of access to treatment and support, and exposure to news coverage and social media.
“The COVID-19 pandemic public health response, although necessary, has had a detrimental effect on the mental health of people with an eating disorder,” said Dr. Miskovic-Wheatley.
“I do not want us to underestimate what the long-term consequences may be for people affected by eating disorders – that’s something we’re currently investigating.”
The rise in the incidence of eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered today’s announcement of a $ 13 million federal government funding for a new national research center.
Through a partnership between the InsideOut Institute and the University of Sydney, an Australian-first research center will be established.
The Center will coordinate a national approach to eating disorder research and translate results into practice in the treatment of Australians with eating disorders.
Ms Morgan said this is an “exciting announcement” and will be a “game changer”.
“Critically, it also involves lived experience, and we know it has been a game changer in understanding eating disorders and what is needed to treat them,” she said.
The center will pave the way for research and translate it into treatment options, changes in clinical practice, prevention and sustainable improvement.
“By 2022, we still have Australians who are undiagnosed and therefore untreated,” Ms Morgan said.
“One day we will be able to prevent these disorders, and translated research will drive us there.”
The government has previously set aside $ 110 million for Medicare-supported treatment of eating disorders.
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