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What colleges can do to fight a rise in eating disorders

When Sophie first comes back to college after lockdown, it doesn’t take long for her tutor to spot that something isn’t right. Sophie doesn’t look different, but she has stopped going to the canteen at lunch – she’s spending all her breaks in the study space instead. She’s also not taking part in tennis, an activity that she always loved.

These are some of the warning signs of an eating disorder, and because Sophie’s tutor has spotted them early, she is able to get support before things escalate further.

Eating disorders can develop at any age, but anorexia nervosa usually develops at 16-17 and bulimia nervosa at 18-19. This puts colleges on the front line, with a crucial role to play in identifying problems.

In an ideal response scenario, events will play out as they did in Sophie’s case. However, during the first lockdown, students were (and in some cases still are) not physically able to attend college. And with eating disorder referrals on the rise, it seems that being cut off from their usual college support networks could be taking its toll on young people.

But just how worried should colleges be? And

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