A big part of my job both as a science writer and as a blogger here for ED Bites is to read news articles. For ED Bites, not surprisingly, those articles are generally about eating disorders.
Anorexia and bulimia are "dramatically" on the rise.
- There's an increase in the number of cases of eating disorders. Nope. Overall number of cases could have remained the same or even gone down. We don't know, truthfully. It could be that the cases are more severe, or that people are actually being hospitalized more frequently. It doesn't indicate how many ED cases there are that don't actually end up in the hospital.
- An increase in hospitalization is a terrible thing. If more people being in the hospital means that more people are getting the care that they need, then this is a good thing.
- The world has it out for 15-year-old girls. Considering that peak onset for anorexia is puberty (and, at least in the UK, anorexia is the ED that is most frequently hospitalized), it's not surprising that a high number of hospitalized people are aged 15. Neither surprising, nor shocking, if the reporter had done her background research.
- There is an epidemic of eating disorders. To get really technical, an epidemic occurs "when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience." (Thanks, Wikipedia). Here's the rub: we don't have any data on the current number of new or existing EDs in the community, so we absolutely CANNOT accurately say if there are more cases than we would expect. Because we don't know how many cases to expect. It's all smoke and mirrors to say there's an epidemic. As far as we know, there's not.