Eating disorders cost the UK £15bn every year, according to Norfolk-based charity Beat

Eating disorders charity "beat".

Eating disorders charity "beat". - Credit: Archant

Eating disorders cost the UK in the region of £15bn every year, according to the most in depth and comprehensive report of its kind, commissioned by Norfolk-based charity Beat.

The charity, which is based in Norwich, commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to produce the report on the economic impact of eating disorders on individuals, their carers and the economy overall.

PwC based their findings, which have been revealed at the start Eating Order Awarenes Week, on a survey of first-hand experience of more than 500 people across the UK who have been affected by the illness.

Key findings are:

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• The average annual cost to treat someone is £8,900, but the report found examples where annual treatment costs of up to £100,000 had been incurred.

• The loss of income – through time off work and education is on average £9,500 per annum for sufferers aged 20 and above and £5,900 for carers.

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• Around £2.6bn to £3.1bn annual financial and economic burden to sufferers.

• Total treatment costs to the NHS in the region of £3.9bn to £4.6bn.

• Lost income to the economy is between £6.8bn to £8bn.

• 18% of respondents waited two years or more for treatment.

• Respondents on average experienced a wait of 15 months between recognising symptoms and treatment starting.

• 50% spent six years in treatment.

• 63% of respondents experienced at least one relapse but the lowest relapse rates of 33% occur when interventions are early.

The charity says the report indicates how inconsistent access to treatment can be for individuals, and it makes a strong case for investing in early interventions.

Beat has campaigned for earlier diagnosis and access to treatment, and while it acknowledges the government's latest initiative to invest £30m per year is an important first step, it says the report indicates that this is only the beginning of the battle against a condition which has devastating consequences for the individual sufferer, their families and carers and the economy as a whole.

Beat chief executive Susan Ringwood said: 'We know the massive impact that an eating disorder has on anyone affected, and their friends and family too. The toll in terms of physical health and mental wellbeing, the effects on education and employment, on opportunities lost and to live life to the full are so sadly familiar to us.

'We also know you can't put a price worth paying on a life. Healthy lives are priceless, and each of us is uniquely valuable.

'Eating disorders are a treatable condition and recovery is possible. We want everyone to know just how much it costs if we are not all up to speed on the need to act quickly.'

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb, said: 'The pressures of growing up in today's world are complex and can be very serious. We know that, if left untreated, eating disorders are devastating for those affected and their loved ones. That's why we're investing £150m to provide the right support at the right time and provide a lifeline for these families.

'This report makes a clear case for local areas to invest in better care for young people with eating disorders so that no-one is left struggling alone.'

Professor Janet Treasure, Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London, said: 'Eating disorders have a protracted trajectory, lasting seven years on average for anorexia nervosa and 12 years for bulimia nervosa.

'Over 50% of cases develop a severe enduring stage of illness. Thus the illness has its effect in the second and third decade of life, a time of profound change and maturation.

'The length of illness is a key factor that determines the associated disability and response to treatment. Increased awareness, recognition and treatment are essential to limit the immense personal, family and service costs of the enduring stages of illness.'

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