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In brief: Rising number of eating disorders among children in England


An image of a row of teenagers trainers
Emmanuel Olguín | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Number of children admitted for eating disorders in England on the rise


The number of hospital admissions for young people with eating disorders in England has significantly increased, according to newly published NHS figures.


In 2020–21, there were 24,300 hospital admissions for eating disorders, compared with 13,200 in 2015–16, nearly half of which (11,700) were for young people under the age of 25.


The majority of those affected were young women, with 10,800 female admissions in 2020–21, while admissions of young men with eating disorders have more than doubled in recent years.


To address the growing concern over eating disorders among young people, the NHS has aimed to have 95% of children and young people with eating disorders begin treatment within one week for urgent cases, and four weeks for non-urgent cases, since 2021–22.


However, analysis from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office shows that the NHS is currently missing this target, with only 78% of urgent cases and 81% of non-urgent cases seen within the target time frame in the third quarter of 2022–23.


These percentages have been declining every year since 2019–20, coinciding with a post-COVID increase in the number of young people starting eating disorder treatment.


The data also reveals that in the last quarter of 2022–23, 45% of urgent cases were waiting more than 12 weeks to start treatment, while for routine cases, this percentage was 34%.


The increase in the number of children starting treatment for eating disorders has raised concerns about the capacity of the healthcare system to meet the growing demand for mental health support in the UK.




1 in 2 people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime


A global study has revealed that 1 in 2 people will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetime.


The study involved analysing data from more than 150,000 adults across 29 countries between 2001 and 2022, making it the largest coordinated series of face-to-face interviews through the World Health Organisation's World Mental Health Survey initiative.


The research highlighted the three most common mental health disorders among women as depression, specific phobia (a specific and disabling anxiety), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); for men, it is alcohol abuse, depression, and specific phobia.


The study also showed that mental health disorders tend to first emerge in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.


Co-author of the study, Professor Ronald Kessler, said:


"Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly, and be optimised to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives.


"By understanding the age at which these disorders commonly arise, we can tailor public health interventions and allocate resources to ensure that appropriate and timely support is available to individuals at risk."




Almost half of doctors say their mental health is worse now than during the pandemic


Almost half of healthcare professionals in the UK (46%) report that their mental health has worsened compared with during the pandemic.


The survey, conducted by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), questioned nearly 900 healthcare professionals and also reveals that the majority (75%) feel that the Government is not doing enough to support healthcare professionals dealing with mental health issues.


Nearly half of the respondents (43%) mention "moral injury" as a significant impact on their current mental health, referring to not being able to do the right thing for patients.


Other factors include the impact of exhaustion on patient safety (47%) and the lack of breaks to eat and drink (35%).


Staff shortages appear to be worsening the issue, with 76% of respondents saying they are unable to take time off to address their mental health because of it.


Unsurprisingly many are considering leaving the profession due to the strain it’s putting on them, with 43% of respondents reporting that they are contemplating leaving their careers in healthcare due to mental health concerns.




‘Startling’ levels of mental health symptoms found among people living with autoimmune diseases


Research conducted by the University of Cambridge and King's College London has found that more than half of the patients with systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs) experience mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.


The researchers surveyed 1,853 SARD patients and found that 55% were experiencing depression, 57% were experiencing anxiety, 89% had experienced severe fatigue, and 70% had experienced cognitive dysfunction.


These prevalence rates were significantly higher than previously thought and much higher than in a control group of healthy volunteers.


Patients often hesitated to report their mental health problems to clinicians, possibly due to fears of stigmatisation.


Even when patients did share their mental health symptoms with clinicians, they were often not appropriately acknowledged or documented.


Chief executive of the British Society for Rheumatology, Sarah Campbell said:


"Given what the study finds on the prevalence of this issue and the deep impact neurological and psychiatric symptoms have on patients, it should be of grave concern to policymakers that only 8% of rheumatology departments in England and Wales have a psychologist embedded in their team.”




Virtual reality-based exercise can prevent anxiety and depression for patients undergoing haemodialysis


A recent study conducted by researchers at the Pomeranian Medical University (PUM) has investigated the impact of virtual reality (VR)-based exercises on depression and anxiety symptoms in individuals undergoing hemodialysis (HD) for end-stage renal disease (ESRD).


The study included 85 patients who were receiving dialysis treatment at the Pomeranian Medical University and were divided into two groups – a study group and a control group.


The study group consisted of 39 ESRD patients who performed VR-based exercises for 20 minutes during their haemodialysis sessions.


The control group comprised 46 ESRD patients who did not perform VR-based exercises during their haemodialysis sessions.


The findings of the study indicated that VR-based physical exercises were associated with a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms among chronic haemodialysis patients.




NHS Scotland signs CBT software deal


The NHS National Services Scotland has entered into a £13.7 million contract with mental health specialist Big Health to utilise cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) software in mental health treatment.


The contract includes two lots according to the contract award notice, each valued at £6.84 million.


One lot is for the use of Big Health's product called Daylight, which is designed to assist individuals dealing with generalised anxiety disorder, and the other for Big Health's product Sleepio, which focuses on providing support for people experiencing insomnia.


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