34% of adults unable to name any signs or symptoms of eating disorders

Beat call upon Government and NHS to increase awareness

More than one in three adults (34%) in the UK, who gave an answer, could not name any signs or symptoms of eating disorders, according to a survey conducted by YouGov.

The eating disorder charity Beat, which commissioned the research, links low awareness of the early signs with delayed treatment and increased risk of the illness becoming severe and enduring.

These results are unveiled to mark the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW), as Beat calls on the Government and NHS to extend their focus on early intervention, supporting measures to increase awareness of the early signs and symptoms of eating disorders.

18% said they ‘did not know’, any signs or symptoms, 14% listed an eating disorder diagnosis like ‘bulimia’ or ‘anorexia’ rather than a sign or symptom and 1% game an incorrect answer.

They survey, that polled over 2,000 adults in the UK, also found that, of respondents who gave a correct answer, they were twice as likely to list weight loss or being thin (62%) as a sign over any other.

In fact, many people affected by eating disorders will remain at a normal weight, or even gain weight and for those who do lose weight, it is a physical sign which will appear once the mental illness is ingrained.

The lack of awareness about this complex mental health issue was further highlighted by the fact that, on average, of those who gave a correct answer, people could only list three signs and symptoms out of a potential 68 identified by Beat and 79% were not able to name a psychological symptom, which usually appear first, such as low confidence and self-esteem and a distorted perception of weight or shape. 

Beat believes that more needs to be done to encourage people to get help and support faster. For this reason, the charity is calling on the Government and NHS to promote the importance of spotting the early signs and symptoms of eating disorders.

“These results are worrying because we know lack of awareness can stop sufferers getting the treatment they desperately need as soon as possible.”

Beat Chief Executive, Andrew Radford

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

To mark EDAW 2018, Beat has launched the digital campaign #WhyWait to encourage people to take action now by starting those difficult conversations and reaching out to find support through Beat’s Helpline or the individual’s GP.

About Beat

Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. They are a champion, guide, and friend to anyone affected by eating disorders, giving individuals experiencing an eating disorder and their loved ones a place where they feel listened to, supported and empowered.


Other Organisations

Anorexia and Bulimia Care

Eating Disorders and Carers

Eating Disorders Support

National Centre for Eating Disorders