A study at the University College of London has found that eating disorders are growing twice as fast among men and boys as compared to women and girls.

The number of males diagnosed with conditions such as bulimia and anorexia rose 24% between 2000 and 2009, almost twice the rise among women. Males at any age can develop an eating disorder, although it is most common between the ages of 14-25.

The NHS describes anorexia nervosa as a serious mental health condition. It is an eating disorder in which people keep their body weight as low as possible. Although more commonly found to be an issue among women, statistics released by the University College of London indicate an increase in male sufferers.

Recent reports from the Royal College of Practitioners show a 66% rise of male hospital admissions due to anorexia nervosa. However, this figure could still just be the tip of the iceberg as many cases go unreported, as sufferers are not hospitalised.

Deanne Jade is a psychologist for the National Centre for Eating Disorders (NCFD). She is the founder and principal of the NCFD, and has a passionate commitment to help people recover from eating disorders be that compulsive eating, bulimia, and obesity.

“The increase in male anorexia is cause for alarm”, she said.

There are a number reasons for this increase. Boys who have been bullied for being overweight are more partial to become sufferers of eating disorders. Dieting can also lead to people obsessing over weight, which can sometimes result in severe eating disorders. Children who play high level sport, runners and jockeys, which require leanness can often lead to athletes becoming obsessive about weight and weight loss. Furthermore, professions that require slimness, such as modelling or acting, are also key environments that can trigger eating disorders.

We are living in a culture saturated with images of healthy, lean, muscular bodies. Living in an environment fixed on diets and physical appearance can have a negative impact on our own definition of what constitutes as the ideal body type. This has long been acknowledged as an issue for women, but statistics are now showing that it is also becoming a serious issue for men.

Male underwear models grace the front pages of fashion magazines, advertisements and billboards, even life size cut outs adorn our busses.

Everyone and anyone would have seen the enormous photo of a scantily clad Rafael Nadal for Tommy Hilfiger, you can’t miss it it’s all over our London buses. Although we look on in titillation we need to ask ourselves, what are photos like these doing for our male audience?

A man who wishes to remain anonymous said tepidly, “it seems these days if you don’t have a six pack and arms to match, you have a body that is ‘not manly’ and unattractive”.

Although we jump on our bandwagons to chastise the fashion industry for skinny female models that promote completely unrealistic bodily expectations for our young girls, we need not forget about our young men.

If you are a professional sports star like Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham, of course you can expect to have an Adonis physique, your lifestyle and career centres upon it. But what about those who can’t boast playing for England, or representing their nation at Wimbledon?

According to the website, Men Get Eating Disorders Too a lot of male sufferers of eating disorders compare themselves with these so-called ‘ideal’ body types. Weight loss and workout programs as well as cosmetic surgery procedures, whose goal is chiselled muscularity, can lead to body dissatisfaction. Considering that eating disorders for men are most apparent in the ages of 14-25, ages in which boys start to physically develop we really need to consider the saturation of over hyped and unrealistic portraits of masculinity in our society.

However, Jeanne Dade is adamant that “you can’t blame the culture” for male anorexia. “You can’t just get anorexia from wanting to be thing, it is an amalgamation of many factors”, she says. This includes their emotional sensitivity, lifestyle and family life.

Although statistics indicate that men still suffer far less from eating disorders compared to women, the rise since 2000 is cause for alarm. The over saturation of hyped masculinity and chiselled Adonis bodies, just as the skinny models affect our young girls, so too do these images affect our men.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide. We have already seen (https://aliteraturereview.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/professor-green-suicide-and-me/) an increase in male suicide, eating disorders is a problem that needs to be addressed.


Please visit the website, http://mengetedstoo.co.uk/, for more information concerning the rise of eating disorders in men. 

Visit, https://aliteraturereview.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/men-get-eating-disorders-too/, to read about the Millstone, a documentary which follows nine former male anorexic sufferers and their road to recovery. 

Words: Catherine McMaster
Photos by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/c_emery/5523425885