‘Largely invisible’: Lockdowns trigger surge in eating disorders

23 Jan, 2022

InsideOut's Research Lead Dr Jane Miskovic-Wheatley speaks to the Sydney Morning Herald about new research into the impact of COVID-19 related lockdown restrictions on people with eating disorders.

The study, published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, tracked the experience of 1723 people with eating disorder symptoms during Australia’s first major COVID-19 wave (July to October 2020), using an online survey.

InsideOut researchers found that 88 per cent of respondents saw an increase in body image concerns, 74 per cent said they were more frequently restricting food intake and 66 per cent were binge-eating more often. It also found that social isolation and changes to daily routines exacerbated illness.

The study further revealed that only half of the respondents were in treatment and 40.5 per cent had never been formally diagnosed.

“This study provides evidence for the detrimental impact of the pandemic on people with eating disorders, especially for those not getting support from the health system," Dr Jane Miskovic-Wheatley said.

“Ongoing waves [of COVID-19 cases] are leading to increasingly overwhelmed health systems and alarmingly low diagnosis and treatment rates putting vulnerable people at risk.”

InsideOut psychologist Rachel Simeone further adds that despite many restrictions easing, people with eating disorders are continuing to struggle with symptoms.

"For many people experiencing an eating disorder it will take a lot of time to recover from the impact of the pandemic over the past two years.”