Looking for eating disorder support in your area? Visit HelpFinder

Delaying for years, denied for months

An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, serious mental illnesses that are often poorly understood. They are not ‘diets gone wrong’, narcissistic, fads or phases, but illnesses that cause devastating consequences for those suffering and the people that care for them.

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and when eating disorders are not fatal, damage to organ systems, fertility issues, a higher risk of heart problems, type 2 diabetes and loss of bone density are just some of the severe long-term physical health consequences sufferers can be left with.

Despite the severity of these illnesses, those in need of treatment often don’t find it quickly enough, resulting in an average cycle of relapse and recovery lasting six years, causing unnecessary financial cost and emotional distress to sufferers and their families and placing avoidable additional cost on the public purse.

Two large online surveys, a Freedom of Information request to inpatient units, and interrogation of NHS England spending data have been combined with in-depth qualitative interviews to present an assessment of the experiences of people suffering from an eating disorder, as well as their families, as they seek and receive NHS treatment in England. Separate papers will present the situation in the rest of the UK.


Data was reanalysed for Northern IrelandScotland and Wales and presented in separate, shorter reports.