In 2020/21 Childline has seen an increase in children and young people having concerns about eating disorders and body image compared with the previous year.
The past year has been tough for many children and young people due to the Coronavirus pandemic, especially having to deal with local lockdowns, school closures, and being separated from friends and family.
It’s been particularly difficult for young people who struggle with their body image or suffer from eating disorders.
Some young people have said they were eating more during lockdowns, either out of boredom, increased temptation at home, or due to family insisting on eating regular meals each day - and this has caused them to put on weight. Children in this position said they’ve felt sad, guilty or regretful and some were worried about reactions from their peers when they returned to school.
Others struggled with the disruption to their normal routines which would normally help them maintain a sense of control over their eating or body image problems and many found it challenging being cut off or having reduced contact with their normal protection services such as eating disorder clinics, therapists and social workers.
Out of the 4,986 counselling sessions on body image and eating disorder issues, just under half (2,430) were delivered to children aged 12-15 - a 13% increase in comparison to 2019/20. And almost a third (1,574) were with young people aged 16-18, a 7% increase compared to the previous year.
Just under three quarters (74%) of counselling sessions were with girls, 4% with boys and in 22% the gender of the young person was not disclosed to our Childline counsellors.