Health Expert Suggests Celebrity Body Exposure Fueling Rise In Eating Disorders

By McCarton Ackerman 07/13/15

The number of British teens, mostly young girls, admitted to the hospital for eating disorders has skyrocketed.

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Could the selfie culture fueled by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities be contributing to a rise in eating disorders among children?

A leading pediatrician in the UK has suggested that increased exposure to celebrity bodies is a major factor in more young girls being admitted to hospitals for eating disorders.

Dr. Colin Michie, the chairman of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that kids have greater exposure to advertisements featuring scantily clad celebrities than ever before. With their increased use of cell phones, they can access these images more easily.

“[Advertisements] for children are a very powerful force. I think we have released a behemoth we cannot control,” said Michie. “It’s not just peer pressure. Children do have a problem with food that is different to problems they had before.”

The number of Brits under the age of 19 who were admitted to the hospital for an eating disorder jumped from 658 in 2003-2004 to 1,791 in 2013-2014, a 172% increase. Over 90% of these patients were young girls and women. The number of 14 and 15-year-old girls admitted to the hospital also increased four-fold during this same period.

Although far fewer boys received treatment for eating disorders, the numbers were still significant. About 135 of those admitted for treatment last year were boys, or 7.5% of the total group. Rebecca Field, head of communications for eating disorder charity BEAT, said that males may comprise up to one-fourth of all eating disorder cases.

However, there are encouraging signs that adolescents may be able to recognize problem symptoms and seek help on their own. The National Health Services’ Choices website showed that “underweight teen girls” is the second most common subject that teenage girls search for when they visit the site, while “treatment for eating disorders” is the third most popular. “Underweight teen boys” is the third most common subject looked for among adolescent males.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.