Body image and eating disorders spike during pandemic

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New data released today by mental health organisations Butterfly Foundation and ReachOut show a sharp spike in the number of young people seeking help online when it comes to body image and eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-five per cent more people visited ReachOut’s content about body image compared to the same time last year (March 16-30 June 2019) and demand for support via Butterfly Foundation’s Helpline webchats has increased by 116 per cent in the last year. In addition, qualitative research by ReachOut (June 2020) demonstrates that young people’s concerns about body image has been amplified during isolation.

Juliette Thomson, Manager of Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline, says that there was a high demand for online support for eating disorders and body image issues, with an increase of 48 per cent in demand to the Helpline during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the same time last year.

“The stress to adapt to the ‘new normal’ has seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking help for an eating disorder via the Butterfly National Helpline.

“Young people, in particular, have been seeking help via Butterfly’s online channels such as webchat and email in large numbers and we encourage anyone who is concerned about their own health or that of someone they know to seek help.”

Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut, says that even for those young people not suffering from an eating disorder, negative body image can have a big impact on their wellbeing and that there were many important things they could do to be body positive.

“There are small things that young people can do each day to help them become more body positive which can have big impacts. Curating their social media news feed, surrounding themselves with people who make them feel good and focusing on what their body can do are all great places to start.”

For anyone concerned about an eating disorder, Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline is open every day between 8am and midnight AEST. Call 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE), connect via webchat, or email support@butterfly.org.au.