1 Jul, 2020
A new study by InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders is seeking to better understand the short and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with body, shape, eating or exercise concerns.
The Australian-first longitudinal study will measure, by way of online survey, the impacts of the crisis on symptoms, social isolation and overall quality of life.
The two-year study will also measure access and changes to treatment, like the switch to telehealth.
Its overall aim is to improve future care and treatment delivery.
InsideOut’s Research Lead Dr Jane Miskovic-Wheatley says that due to the novelty of the virus, and the unprecedented public health response, there is currently limited evidence on the impacts of COVID-19 on pre-existing mental health concerns, especially for eating disorders.
“Australians’ way of life has changed dramatically over the past few months, and for people with an eating disorder there are many unique challenges which can be extremely triggering,” she says.
“A big issue is social isolation. There is a direct link between loneliness and risk of worsening of symptoms.”
“Even as public spaces re-open and social events start again, people with eating disorders are likely to continue feeling isolated.”
“We know that people with eating disorders have a complex relationship with food and often need to follow strict diet plans. So, during the shutdown, not being able to access the foods you would normally buy and needing to stock-pile were potential triggers.”
“A continued increased focus on hygiene and a general sense of heightened uncertainty are risk factors which remain.”
'The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with eating disorders in Australia' study will also give insight into people’s experiences of transitioning their treatment from face-to-face, to telehealth services.
“This may be the opportunity to carefully consider the benefits of this change, especially if it gives people who need support more options," Dr Miskovic-Wheatley says.
“But for this study to be effective, we need the support of people with lived experience. We are reaching out to anyone and everyone who would like to share their experience with us.”
The survey starts today and is open to people aged 16 years or over, who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or experience body image concerns or eating difficulties.