Eating disorders common in all-girls school: Study

Eating disorders common in all-girls school: Study

Eating disorders are quite common among those obsessed with body weight and shape to the extent that they may restrict their eating in pursuit of extreme thinness. Though the disorder is common in both sexes, young women seem to be more prone to suffer from this health issue.

A recent study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in April 2016, revealed that girls who attend a school with a higher proportion of female students are more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. A person’s family background might also increase the chance of developing an eating disorder, said the study.

The study also found that eating disorders are more common among girls who are from families of achievers with parents having high educational degrees. The researchers indicated that sheer prevalence of an “aspirational culture” in schools and among parents led to the occurrence of such disorders among girls.

Co-author of the study Professor Glyn Lewis from the University College London, said, “Our study suggests that eating disorders are more common in some schools than others. We cannot be sure why this happens, but the worst affected schools had a higher proportion of girls and more highly educated mothers. Eating disorders can be very serious and disabling, often affecting young women at a crucial time of their life and with long-lasting effects on their wellbeing.”

Girls can develop the disorder to imitate their peers

For the study, the researchers from the Oxford University, the University College London, the University of Bristol, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm used routinely collected sample data from Sweden that took into account the individual factors that led to the development of an eating disorder.

They did a multilevel analysis of 55,059 females aged 16-20 years and born in Stockholm County, Sweden. Most of them were born in 1983 and finished high school during 2002-2010. The study found that 2.4 percent suffered from an eating disorder. After analyzing the individual factors, the number greatly varied according to the type of school the girls studied and their family’s educational backgrounds.

The study found that 3.3 percent of the girls who came from highly educated families and attended an all-girls school were more prone to suffer from an eating disorder, as compared to the 1.3 percent coming from co-ed schools and with less educational background.

Eating disorders affect 5.7 percent of adolescent girls, which accounts for nearly two in a 30-pupil class. A young girl with anorexia is six times as likely to die a premature death, as compared to young girls who do not have this disorder.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist and lead researcher Dr. Helen Bould said, “For a long time clinicians in the field have noted that they seem to see more young people with eating disorders from some schools than others, but this is the first empirical evidence that this is the case.”

The findings suggested that girls can develop this disorder to imitate their peers, especially in same-sex schools. She also indicated that the reasons for this are not perfectly clear because such instances can also arise due to the pressure of looking perfect while following the “thin ideal” and that some schools are better at identifying such eating disorders for proper diagnosis and treatment. However, further studies are needed throw light on such aspects.

Way forward

The findings show that a school environment can be the causal factor for the development of eating disorders. Hence, certain measures taken at the school-level can make a difference. Preventive interventions that are aimed at the schools with high rates of eating disorder cases can bring awareness among the students and encourage them to take corrective measures.

Specialized eating disorders treatment facilities can help you get customized recovery options that include psychotherapies, nutritional counseling, etc. If you or your loved one is suffering from such disorders, consult the Sovereign Mental Health Services which has proper eating disorders treatments that can help you normalize your eating patterns. Chat online or call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 for more information.

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