Children as young as 5 are being treated in British hospitals for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, official figures being widely reported Monday reveal.
The number of kids under 9 years old needing hospitalization for the debilitating disorders has doubled in the past year with the nationwide trend being blamed partly on the "size zero" fashion craze.
The statistics show there were 98 children between the ages of 5 and 7 admitted to hospitals during the last three years, with a further 99 children between the ages of 8 and 9 treated over the same period.
There were also almost 400 kids between the ages of 10 and 12, and 1,500 between the ages of 13 and 15 hospitalized for the disorders.
The figures were released by National Health Service trusts around Britain under the freedom of information act, although the true extent of the problem may be worse — with several hospital trusts refusing to release their numbers.
"Children are receiving very pernicious messages," Susan Ringwood, chief of charity Beat, told The Sun. "The ideal figure promoted for women is that of a girl not an adult. Girls see the pictures in magazines of extremely thin women and think that is how they should be. Body image seems to be influencing younger children much more over the past decade."
Rosi Prescott, chief executive of the YMCA, agrees.
"As a society we are far more obsessed with body image compared with 20 years ago," she told the Daily Mail. "Young people are trying to make themselves look as appealing as possible and they are looking up to these celebrities and models as references, even though many are not real because they have been airbrushed. They are becoming preoccupied with what they eat and developing an unhealthy relationship with food."