Anorexia: The Japanese Epidemic

Some shocking stats on anorexia in Japan, from an article by Georgia Hanias in this month’s Marie Claire:

  • anorexia and bulimia boomed in Europe and America during the 70s and 80s but Japan never experienced a problem.  Today, the number of people with eating disorders is increasing more rapidly in Japan than anywhere else in the world.
  • Each year the Japanese government collects three billion yen (£22m) in tax revenue from companies selling slimming aids.  These products are sold by pharmacies on every street.
  • The number of underweight babies being born in Japan has gone up as a result of women controlling their calories during pregnancy.
  • Children in Japan are getting thinner because more mums with eating disorders are developing alexitheymia: an inability to read emotion, meaning a mother can’t tell when her children are hungry.
  • Across all the 80 medical schools in Japan, there is only one professor specialising in eating disorders.

In the UK, there can be huge waiting lists for treatment – but in Japan it’s far worse. Hanias argues that most Japanese sufferers have to go to independent clinics as hospitals just don’t have the necessary resources.  Most staff are not trained in psychiatric issues and the waiting list (for a ten-minute consultation) is seven years. If patients can make it that long.

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