So, what are we doing about it as a country? The answer may be surprising. Just $0.93 is spent on eating disorder research per suffering individual. This is compared to $44 in autism research, $88 for Alzheimer’s research, $81 for schizophrenia research, and a number exponentially larger for cancer research. With 20 million women and 10 million men suffering from eating disorders before the end of their lives, and one person dying every 62 minutes of an eating disorder, the issue is surprisingly underfunded, under researched, and undertreated. Eating disorders disproportionately affect young women, specifically athletes and even more specifically dancers. Throughout my dancing career, I have experienced many friends and acquaintances who have suffered from an eating disorder. Two of them eventually had to drop out because of the toll being taken on both their mind and body. Beginning around 1966, research was compiled regarding the risk ratios and confidence intervals of dancers suffering from eating disorders. Dancers were proven to have over 3 times a higher risk of anorexia specifically, as well as other non-specified eating disorders. This creates even more of a need to address EDs in this high risk dance community.
What is the solution? Health classes in schools usually last a semester or half of one, and
mental health issues, eating disorders, sex education, and sexual harassment/assault/rape are typically replaced with topics such as bullying and exercise. As important as these issues are, the most prevalent ones in teenage lives are glazed over or mentioned in passing. There is no solution to many of the issues presented, but as with every other issue in our society, increased education and awareness work to alleviate some of the stigma surrounding EDs and those suffering from them. The societal “ideal body standards” will not be easily broken. It takes time and compliance to change the “norm”, two things eating disorders will not wait for. Students from a young age should be educated, comfortable talking about EDs, and given the proper support system/access to treatment, so at least the steps taken to look a certain way can be safe and healthy. Using current projects such as The Body Project supported by NEDA, we can work to promote a healthy body image across all body types. Unless we begin to accept eating disorders as the public health issue they are, and until treatments, support systems, and resources go mainstream, we will never be able to help those suffering in an effective and loving way.
Arcelus J, Witcomb GL, Mitchell A. Prevalence of eating disorders amongst dancers: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2014;22(2):92-101. doi:10.1002/erv.2271 "Prevention of Eating Disorders: Optimism and Caution" by Carolyn Black Becker, PhD, FAED.
Video recorded at F.E.A.S.T.'s 2014 Dallas Conference, January 31, 2014
"The Scary Truth About Teen Eating Disorders: Causes, Effects, and Statistics." Mental Health Resources, 28 July 2017,
www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/scary-truth-teen-eating-disorders/. Accessed 21 Au