More people with eating disorders in Spain since the pandemic

by Lorraine Williamson
eating disorders

MADRID – In the past eighteen months, the number of people with eating disorders has increased by no less than 20% in Spain. This increase is partly due to the inaccessibility of the overloaded healthcare system during the pandemic. 

Furthermore, the lockdowns and increased use of social media have also had a negative effect on eating habits. Not only did the number of people with eating disorders increase, but the symptoms of those already suffering from the disorder worsened during the pandemic. 

Especially young adolescents 

There were 400,000 people in Spain who already had an eating disorder at the start of the pandemic. 300,000 of those are young adolescents. This is evidenced by data from Fundación Fita, an organisation dedicated to the prevention and awareness of mental health problems. Young people in particular are receptive to the ideal body image presented to them via social media. 

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Condition worsened due to lack of care 

During the pandemic, the number of hospitalisations due to eating disorders also increased by 20%. Many admissions already planned before the arrival of the coronavirus had to be postponed due to the pandemic, often severely deteriorating the condition of these patients. According to WHO data, mental health is one of the health care areas most affected by the pandemic. More than 30% of people with eating disorders did not receive the treatment they needed during this time. 

Younger and more men 

90% of people with eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder) in Spain are women. Between 4% and 5% of all girls in Spain between the ages of 12 and 21 suffer from this mental illness. The symptoms begin to develop earlier and earlier, sometimes as early as 8 or 9 years of age. In general, these are highly educated girls of 15 years of age from the upper social class with a high degree of perfectionism and control. However, according to the Spanish Association against Anorexia and Bulimia, more and more young men are becoming victims of this condition. 

According to a report on eating disorders from the Department of Health, between 50% and 60% of people with this condition make a full recovery; between 20% and 30% recover partially, and in 10% to 20% the eating disorder becomes chronic. In the best-case scenario, a treatment will last at least another two years. 5% of people with anorexia eventually die from this. 

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