Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health Event: The Rising Cost of Eating Disorders

14 May, 2024

InsideOut Institute partnered with the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health to invite key eating disorder stakeholders and MPs to come together at Parliament House on Wednesday evening to discuss the costs of eating disorders.  

Passionate advocates for improving mental health outcomes for the community and Co-Chairs of the Group, the Hon. Emily Suvaal, MP and the Hon. Susan Carter, MP invited speakers to address the direct and indirect costs affecting people living with an eating disorder, their families and supports. Speakers acknowledged the often-misunderstood nature of eating disorders in the community and the importance of continuing to raise awareness of the seriousness of these illness with colleagues and the community. 

The Hon. Rose Jackson, MP attended and spoke about her governments commitment to building partisan support for this issue, noting that attention and adequate investment in research and clinical change has been lacking. Minister Jackson acknowledged the significant work that is being done to improve the system in NSW. 

“These parliamentary groups provide the opportunity for us to hear more, learn more, reflect more, challenge each other, and hold each other accountable. I hope to raise these issues at a national level, particularly in relation to national research.” 

Recent reports presented include Butterfly’s ‘Paying the Price’ in partnership with Deloitte, InsideOut’s ‘Mortality and Mental Health Funding: Do the Dollars Add Up?’ and MAINSTREAM’s ‘Economic Costs of Eating Disorders. 

Findings from the Deloitte report showed the economic and social costs of eating disorders to Australia in 2023 was $67 billion – equivalent to $60,700 per person each year. This includes direct costs to the system (such as healthcare) as well as indirect costs (such as loss of earnings).

"The majority of the costs we are carrying as a society for untreated and unresolved eating disorders around the glove are associated with loss of productivity and well-being, the very high health care costs are actually a small part of the economic burden,” says Moin Ahmed from MAINSTREAM Research Centre. 

According to Emma Bryant from InsideOut who conducted a recently published portfolio analysis, “Only four studies have been funded in Australia over the past 13 years for the development of new treatments for eating disorders, despite the fact anorexia nervosa has recovery rates of less than 50% with current treatments. This is a major problem.”

Butterfly CEO, Jim Hungerford says “The findings of the latest Paying the Price report confirm the urgent need for support to reduce costs and the 1.1 million plus people in Australia who are struggling with an eating disorder. Butterfly is calling for an ongoing commitment by the Commonwealth Government for $12 million funding annually to deliver universal and targeted prevention campaigns in schools and organisations, along with community-wide health promotion, to stop the growing prevalence and cost of eating disorders.”

Jasmine Singh and Chantel Le Cross represented 2 of the many voices of lived experience at the event. 

Chantel Le Cross says it was an invaluable opportunity to meet with researchers, politicians, legislators and health practitioners who are eager to hear how they can work together to make the necessary changes to ensure people experiencing disordered eating and the people who love them get the support they deserve.

“People across Australia are experiencing the impact of eating disorders and are footing the bill, sometimes without even knowing it.”

“Until we stop seeing eating disorders and mental health as a personal problem and understand it as a symptom of an institutional and cultural imbalance can we start to treat the root of the cause,” says Le Cross.  

“It's clear that we need to fund more research, but I also want to emphasise the importance of ensuring our policies and legislation are informed by intersectional research, lived experience and developed alongside community consultation.”

Senior Dietitian and Statewide Stream lead Caroline Hill has seen incredible advances with the current NSW Service Plan for People with Eating Disorders over the past 5 years.

“We are coming to the end of our NSW Service Plan; we need to look forward to the next. So that wherever a person and their family turn up in the health system, they are cared for and provided with evidence-based treatment."

Media Contact

Juanita Nantes, P: 0434 890 694, E:

Help and Support

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:

Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or

Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23

For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14