Almost 600 children below the age of 13 have been treated in hospital for eating disorders in the past three years, new figures have revealed.Bad, eh? Well, no. It seems it's probably worse.
The statistics include 197 children between the ages of five and nine - with cases within this age group almost doubling over the period.
The figures, from 35 NHS hospitals in England, show more than 2,100 children were treated for eating disorders before they reached their sixteenth birthday.
They include 98 children aged between five and seven at the time of treatment and 99 aged eight or nine. Almost 400 were between the ages of 10 and 12, while more than 1,500 were aged 13 to 15.
Even these statistics, disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, are likely to be an underestimate.And what is thought to be the reason for this?
Some NHS hospitals treating such patients refused to provide any data, while among the 35 hospitals, some would only disclose the figures for those children admitted to wards after becoming dangerously emaciated - excluding those undergoing psychiatric therapy as outpatients.
Experts blamed the trend on a "pernicious" celebrity culture which glorified size zero figures, leaving increasing numbers of young girls struggling to cope with their growing bodies.Ah, it's our modern sleb culture, is it? Biology and genetics aren't going to change things a great deal unless there's an eating disorder gene which is dominant, so presumably it's this problem that this obsession with "body image" has grown so much over recent years. Okay, that makes sense to me, and there's no denying that magazines that do nothing but show pictures of skinny or buff people (sometimes rather weirdly so, sometimes photoshopped, and probably sometimes weird and photoshopped) have played a role. But I wonder if Susan Ringwood isn't missing another factor, another focus on body image that's been increasing a great deal in the last few years.
Susan Ringwood, chief executive of eating disorders charity B-eat said the figures reflected alarming trends in society, with young children "internalising" messages from celebrity magazines, which idealised the thinnest figures.
"A number of factors combine to trigger eating disorders; biology and genetics play a large part in their development, but so do cultural pressures, and body image seems to be influencing younger children much more over the past decade," she added.
Nah, what am I saying? It couldn't possibly be anything to do with everyone running around screaming 'obesity epidemic' every time a kid turns his nose up at a green salad and asks for a burger instead, could it? Not least because it would mean the Righteous, those people whose lives are devoted to telling everyone else what to do and pointing the finger at those who aren't doing it right, are themselves are part of the problem.