Number of anorexic children has tripled
The National Health Service estimates that the number of U.K. preteen children treated for eating disorders has tripled in the last four years.
The findings state that children are under increased pressure to be thin, mostly due to unrealistic expectations set forth by media and culture.
And many children who need help for eating disorders are being turned away for being "too thin," the NHS reports.
Susan Ringwood, from UK-based eating disorder charity Beat, said that there is a "toxic combination" of pressures on young kids, which requires them to be perfect:
There’s the sexualization of childhood; seven-year-olds wanting a push-up bra. But there are other factors too – puberty kicks in younger now, and that means that hormonal changes are affecting the brain as well as the body at a lower age, and meaning children are likely to feel self-conscious when they are younger.
The charity also claims that long hospital waits are standard for those children requiring treatment – about one-quarter of kids wait more than six months for even an outpatient appointment.
The rise of obesity, and the threat of fat-shaming or bullying, drives some children into treatment for eating disorders, reports The Telegraph, but some researchers say that early puberty and pop-culture influences are also causing girls to have body image issues.
"It’s quite distressing that our children and girls are feeling an inequitable pressure on their physical appearance so young in their lives," said Julie Bentley, Beat's chief executive. "They should be enjoying their childhood and not worrying about what they look like. Being 'on a diet' was beyond my comprehension when I was young."