Are eating disorders Israel's post-COVID pandemic?

Published date02 June 2023
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Three and a half years later, the virus has subsided but the world is left with the impact of COVID-19 – economic, physical and mental. Today, more and more people are literally starving to take back control of the lives they lost to the pandemic

"People experienced a lot of stress around the unknown of this new virus," explained Prof. Salman Zarka, director-general of Ziv Medical Center and former coronavirus coordinator for the Health Ministry. "They worried about themselves and their loved ones.


"On one hand, the closures caused people to disconnect from their friends and family, their schools, work and routine way of life," he continued. "On the other hand, spouses, parents and children spent more time together than they were used to, and this caused another level of stress."

It also allowed parents to recognize challenges with their children they may not have been as attuned to before.

He said that society worldwide is in a state of post-traumatic stress disorder. People who did not have mental health disorders do now, and people who already struggled remain off balance and need help.

For teens, in many cases, this lack of balance has resulted in eating disorders: anorexia – severe restriction of food intake; bulimia – overeating, followed by self-induced purging; or binge eating – consuming large amounts of food and feeling unable to stop eating.

Before COVID-19, the prevalence of eating disorders among adolescents in Israel was higher than in other countries, according to peer-reviewed research by Western Galilee College.

According to the study, Israel ranked second among 33 Western countries, with over 20% of Israeli girls engaged in dieting behavior.

However, getting exact numbers is "impossible," said Dr. Esti Galili-Weisstub, director of the Herman Dana Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah. "We can just say that it's very, very prevalent – more than we would like it to be."

During an interview with this reporter for the Hadassah on Call: New Frontiers in Medicine podcast, she said that as much as 10% of Israeli adolescents could struggle with an eating disorder, mainly girls.

"It's not difficult to hide an eating disorder. It can go under the radar," Galili-Weisstub said. "Only when it's extreme does it come to medical attention. So the numbers in the medical sphere, which are, I would say, hard evidence numbers, are very low, and they don't reflect the reality."

She said there had been an unexpected spike since...

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