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Exploring the impact of Covid-19 on those living with an eating disorder in the UK

During the early stages of the pandemic there was concern raised regarding the impact of Covid-19 on those with eating disorders due to the loss of eating and social routines, disrupted access to food and the increased societal prominence. The primary aim of this study was to establish how individuals with eating disorders in the UK have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic.

Using an online mixed methods survey, a total of 1121 participants completed the survey to explore the impact that covid-19 restrictions had on their eating disorder and access to services.

Findings of this survey showed that there were a considerable number of individuals reporting negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, with many reporting the detrimental impact that they felt that this time had on their recovery. Over a quarter of participants reported that covid-19 had stopped them from access help as a result of fear of catching covid-19 with 80% of participants reported changes to their delivery of care, (61% reporting they had decreased contact with services). Of those who receive physical health monitoring as part of their care prior to the pandemic, almost half reported that this decreased or there was complete removal of any physical monitoring.

Lessons from this growing evidence should be learned to ensure that we are able to better protect people with eating disorders in future pandemics as well as using these findings to plan service for future demand where individuals’ recovery has been considerably impacted.

Dr Una Foye

My work has focused on understanding individuals’ experiences of living with mental health problems to help improve how we develop and improve services to meet the needs of those using them. This interest comes from my work in the third sector providing support services to young people with eating disorders in Northern Ireland.

I completed my PhD at Ulster University exploring the role of emotional intelligence in the onset and maintenance of disordered eating and have published and presented a number of papers to help develop an understanding of how we can utilise emotions within interventions and within recovery.