Australia, Jan 9 2008 (The Daily Telegraph, Australia) Girls as young as eight are falling victim to the size zero fashion phenomenon with a 50 per cent increase in children being admitted with life-threatening eating disorders in the last eight years.
With one expert naming January as “panic month,” doctors say that while one in every four Australian children is overweight or obese – an increasing percentage are dangerously skinny. And they are getting younger.
New NSW Health statistics compiled for The Daily Telegraph show about 1 per cent of the state suffers anorexia while 2 to 5 per cent of young women experience bulimia. Five to 10 per cent of people presenting to a clinic are male and across the country more than 1000 girls under the age of 14 have eating disorders.
Dr Sloane Madden, co-director of the child and adolescent eating disorder program at The Children’s Hospital Westmead said 10 to 15 per cent of his clients are 10 years and under.
“It’s a group we particularly worry about as with any younger children if they are starving themselves, they are affecting their growth,” Dr Madden said.
The celebrity trend of the size zero – a size four in Australian sizes – is eating its way into the consciousness of young girls and women according to Eating Disorders Foundation chief executive officer Amanda Jordan.
“Before anyone who was a size 8 was meant to be impossibly slim but we are now certainly seeing it in 6s and 4s,” she said.
“Recently we are hearing about the first thing young women are doing when they buy clothes is cut off the tags, they don’t want people to see.”
Ms Jordan said the association receives about 12,000 calls a year and last year they were forced to get a second line to handle all the calls coming in on the eating disorders hotline.
“Around this time of year it goes up by a third or more, people start to regroup in February and January is panic month trying to deal with what they’ve done in December,” she said.
Dr Madden said he sees girls and boys as young as eight with eating disorders and in-patients and out-patients clinics are always at capacity.
“Since 2000 we’ve seen a steady increase in numbers of in patients, it’s gone up from about 30 kids in 2000 to around 50, 60 now,” he said.
The leading eating disorders expert says the hospital is only able to admit children who are seriously ill and medically unstable and plans on applying for increased funding this year.
Dr Madden said he is seeing girls and boys come in at increasingly younger ages but said it was hard to determine whether that was because they were developing the condition at a younger age, or the disease was being picked up earlier.
But he did point to the marketing fashion to pre-teens as playing a role.
“Look at the shape of the Bratz dolls,” he said, referring to a brand of ‘fashion dolls’ – lollipop style dolls with a big head and tiny body – aimed at young girls. “And that tween age group – that’s a group that is being marketed to which increasingly has concerned (experts),” he said.