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People with eating disorders in England denied help as 'BMI not low enough'

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Growing numbers of women and men in England with eating disorders are being denied support because they are not considered to be thin enough to warrant it, a leading psychiatrist and other experts have warned in a briefing shared with ministers.

Against the backdrop of a fourfold rise in people admitted to hospital with eating disorders during the Covid pandemic, doctors said body mass index (BMI) was too often used as a blunt measure to decide whether someone should get treatment.

In some cases, women have not received an eating disorder diagnosis despite their periods stopping due to overexercising or restrictive eating.

BMI uses height and weight to calculate a healthy weight score. A normal body weight is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9, and some doctors consider anything below this a signifier of an eating disorder.

Dr Agnes Ayton, the chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists eating disorders faculty, and the mental health campaigner Hope Virgo shared a briefing paper with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) urging funding to meet demand and “as a direct result of an increase in the number and severity” of patients during the pandemic. The paper, seen by the Guardian, said there had been a significant increase in eating disorders among ethnic minorities and men.

Concern has been raised about “a state of emergency” for eating disorders, the briefing paper said. Hospital admissions have seen a fourfold increase in the last year without extra investment in specialist eating disorder inpatient services during this time, it added.

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Source: The Guardian, 5 April 2021

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