School of Health in Social Science

Eating disorders, public health and social inequalities

This project aims to explore how social inequalities and public health interventions may impact body image, disordered eating and eating disorders.

Public health interventions, such as the recently introduced ‘calories on menus’ legislation, and food insecurity, exacerbated by recent issues like the ongoing cost of living crisis, have a yet-to–be-determined effect on eating disorders.

Calories on Menus Legislation 

In April 2022 the Calorie Labelling (Out of Home) Regulations came into effect in England where cafes, restaurants, and takeaways with over 250 employees were required to provide calorie labelling on menus. Concerns have been raised regarding the potential negative impact this could have on individuals with eating disorders. As part of this study, people with restrictive eating disorders were interviewed to find out how the introduction of this legislation had affected them.  We are now working with collaborators in University College London, King’s College London and Imperial College London to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of this legislation for people with a wide range of eating disorders.  

Food insecurity 

The United Kingdom (UK) is experiencing a major cost-of-living crisis. Rising consumer price inflation affects the affordability of nutritious foods, putting healthy diets out of reach for millions. Consequently, food insecurity (FI), defined as limited access to nutritionally adequate food due to lack of money or other resources (e.g., transport), while not a new problem in the UK, has gained increasing recognition. FI exists along a continuum of severity ranging from concerns about access to food to extreme hunger. 

This project explores the impact of food insecurity on increasing risk for disordered eating behaviours as well as examining how living with food insecurity impacts people with eating disorders. We have completed surveys with healthcare professionals who work with people with eating disorders and have highlighted a lack of confidence and knowledge of resources to manage food insecurity in this context. We are also involved in a number of surveys exploring the impact of food insecurity in groups across the UK, including students, young families and people with eating disorders. 

Funded by National Institute of Health and Care Research Policy Research Programme and UK Research and Innovation EDIFY programme (grant number: MR/W002418/1)