There has been a dramatic rise in the number of men diagnosed with eating disorders in the last decade, research suggests.
The number of men who are diagnosed by the GPs with eating problems increased by 27% between 2000 and 2009, the study found.
Across the UK, the number of newly diagnosed cases rose by 15% in the same time frame, researchers said.
The authors, who looked at data from 400 GP practices, identified 9,000 new cases of eating disorders.
Many of the new cases were “eating disorders not otherwise specified” (Ednos) – which meet most, but not, all of the criteria associated with anorexia or bulimia.
The research found a 60% increase in women with this type of disorder and a 24% increase among men.
Lead author of the report, Dr Nadia Micali, senior lecturer and honorary consultant psychiatrist at the University College London’s Institute for Child Health, said: “There is a clear increase in men and women being diagnosed with eating disorders.
“Mostly we see new diagnoses of the Ednos category, reflecting people who have an illness as severe as anorexia or bulimia, but who don’t have symptoms as frequently as the official threshold. For example they may use strategies for weight loss-such as fasting or self-induced vomiting less than twice a week.
“It should be stressed these people, who are understudied, are extremely ill. In fact changes in the classification criteria being unveiled this week in the US mean that what we are currently calling Ednos will now be diagnosed as full cases of anorexia or bulimia.
“What is unclear at this stage is whether the reported increase is down to a true increase in people becoming ill with an eating disorder or better recognition of these disorders among GPs.
“Our findings highlight that about 4,610 girls aged 15-19 and 336 boys aged 15-19 develop a new eating disorder in the UK every year.”
A spokeswoman for the eating disorder charity b-eat, added: “Recent studies show that there are more biological factors relating to eating disorders than we ever previously thought, but the social and cultural influences are now affecting a wider range of people.
“Socio-cultural issues such as the media, peer pressure and body image are now seen to be affecting boys and men and also younger children. There is also now increased awareness of eating disorders which may be why we have seen an increased incidence too.
“To try and combat the issues the only way that we can do this is to raise awareness so that people know that they will not go undiagnosed by their GP and that treatment is available.
“Currently 40% of people contacting our Helpline have not spoken to a healthcare professional.”