People who experience eating disorders will collaborate in new research led by the University of Birmingham to understand a truer picture of how these conditions impact people across the UK.
Dr Anna Lavis from the University of Birmingham has been awarded funding from more than £4m of new research money to develop important understandings of eating disorders. Aiming to improve outcomes for the 1.25 million people in the UK who are thought to be affected, Dr Lavis will work with people with eating disorders to set research priorities and conduct research that will underpin prevention and intervention strategies, and shape key health policy decisions.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders recently highlighted significant gaps in knowledge about the experiences and needs of people with eating disorders. This new funding will enable Dr Lavis’ project to draw together an anthropological approach, with co-production to address these knowledge gaps; and crucially understanding how socio-cultural contexts and social and mental health inequalities impact eating disorder experiences, access to services and outcomes.
... this funding is so vitally important .... to work with people with eating disorders to undertake research that makes a real and sustainable difference now and into the future.Dr Anna Lavis
Dr Anna Lavis, Associate Professor in Medical Anthropology in the Institute of Applied Health at the University of Birmingham said:
“Whilst eating disorders often develop during adolescence, it would be mistaken to think of these conditions as affecting only teenagers and young adults. It is not unusual for people to begin to experience an eating disorder earlier or later in life – from as young as six to as old as 70.
“Eating disorders devastate lives. But for too long huge gaps have persisted in our understanding of the experiences and needs of a wide range of people affected, and of how these are shaped by social and health inequalities.”
“These knowledge gaps create barriers to care and disparities in outcomes, as well as fundamentally undermining our ability to develop effective strategies to spare future generations. That’s why this funding is so vitally important. It will allow us to work with people with eating disorders to undertake research that makes a real and sustainable difference now and into the future.”
This new joint funding commitment from the Medical Research Foundation, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Institute for Health and Care Research, aims to address the ‘vicious cycle of underfunding’ highlighted in a 2021 report - compiled by Beat - on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders.