February 2023 Newsletter
The January 2023 Newsletter for the Utah Women & Leadership Project highlights new resources released, editorials, and announcements about women's groups and partnerships.
Eating Disorders (EDs) are “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” EDs frequently co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, and substance abuse problems, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. LGBTQ+ individuals are also more vulnerable. Importantly, EDs are recognized as one of the most fatal mental illnesses in the US. A recent US study estimated that between 2018 and 2019, one person died from an ED every 51.5 minutes. The report projected that 28.8 million US people will suffer from an ED at some point in their lifetime, and women were two times more likely to have an ED than men. Furthermore, the financial cost per year associated with EDs—including health system costs, productivity and efficiency losses, and informal care—is estimated to be $64.7 billion. Conversion estimates predict that 278,266 Utahns (or 9.0%) will experience an ED. Given the mortality risk, higher rates among women, and the predicted prevalence of EDs in Utah, the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) seeks to better understand what may be affecting this public health crisis in our state. This research snapshot focuses on the following key areas:
It is critical to understand what factors affect ED development and treatment trajectories, particularly among women.
EDs disrupt critical developmental years for many Utahns. The following recommendations provide ideas about how Utah can develop and increase efforts to prevent and treat EDs among women and men.
First: Early intervention efforts must be in place by high school, at the latest, before the typical onset of EDs. It is recommended that schools, colleges, and universities implement evidence-based ED prevention programs or intuitive eating training.
Second: It is critical to increase the number of medical, psychiatric, psychological, and dietary providers who are specifically trained to treat EDs, as generalists may not be trained to treat these complex disorders effectively and may, instead, lead to harm.
Third: Resources must be easily accessible for Utah women.
Fourth: Increased awareness is necessary to shift from the thin-ideal and weight-focused culture through strategic outreach to Utah’s parents; school counselors, teachers, and administrators; and public health educators about ED-related prevention programs and resources.
Fifth: Local lawmakers, public health officials, and health departments can team up to increase efforts that address issues related to EDs.
Mental illness is progressively detrimental to one’s wellbeing if left untreated, and EDs are no exception. It is necessary to improve ED prevention and treatment initiatives in Utah and implement evidence-based prevention programs in Utah schools. Additionally, coordinated efforts are needed to track prevalence in the state. Taking these essential steps will improve the mental health and physical wellbeing of girls and women throughout Utah, which will strengthen their impact in their homes, communities, and in our state.
To learn more about eating disorders among Utah women, read the full snapshot.