Eating Disorders Amongst Female Adolescents in the UAE a Growing Concern

Experts at upcoming Family Medicine session in Abu Dhabi to discuss issue of escalating eating disorders in young female population in the UAE

In a country where obesity and diabetes is a major issue it is quite easy to overlook a dangerous threat to a percentage of the adolescent population. The issue of eating disorders is one of the highly anticipated topics at the Family Medicine Conference at this year's Abu Dhabi Medical Congress & Exhibition which will be held from 27-29 October 2013 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).

Dr Osman El-Labban, a Family Medicine consultant at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, UAE, will be speaking about 'Adolescent Eating Disorders' at the conference. His focus will be on how a family doctor in the UAE should provide primary prevention through health education, an early diagnosis of eating disorders, and monitoring of medical complications.

According to Dr El-Labban, "a study conducted at Zayed University revealed that almost a quarter of the 228 female students who took part in the survey suffered from abnormal eating attitudes and are at risk of developing eating disorders. The researchers asked students to rate their figures against nine silhouettes, and to indicate the shape they aspired to be. Almost 75% were unhappy with their bodies and more than 80% picked thin figures as their ideal body image."

"The UAE has many cultural changes associated with the emergence of Western eating disorders. There is a lack of public awareness about the seriousness of the condition with an increase in the pressure to have the 'ideal body shape' by the media and the social changes in our community. Adolescents accept, as their reality, that fashion models are the true representation of beauty. Nowadays, working parents rarely sit with their kids to eat together as the children return home from school at different times", Dr El-Labban highlighted.

Parents can identify eating disorders in their children by observing certain habits such as restriction in food intake, excessive exercise, recurrent vomiting or abusing laxatives and other medications. The consequences and complications of the aforementioned behaviours may be serious and life threatening.

Parents of adolescents should focus on the following to be able to better identify if their child is experiencing eating disorders and may require urgent help; a constant focus on dieting, food and exercise; if the child is feeling stressed because they are unable to exercise; if they weigh themselves frequently; insisting on consuming different meals from rest of the family; and, skipping meals.

The adolescents suffering from eating disorders may also try reducing meal portion sizes or leaving food behind, having frequent visits to the bathroom after meals, and increasing social withdrawal.The prevalence of eating disorders amongst teens includes 4% of adolescents with a peak age of onset of eating disorders between 14-18 years. It is more common in girls than boys with the ratio of 6 females to one male

"A survey was conducted last year on 900 girls by Al Ain University and it showed that 1.8% of 13 to 19-year-old girls were anorexic; while in comparison the rate is 1% for British girls between 16 and 18 years old. It is evident that adolescents with eating disorders are sleepy in class or struggle to focus. A counsellor in one of the women's colleges in the UAE reports that "the students don't come for help; we usually only notice them if they faint in college or are having trouble concentrating in class or by their physical appearances," continued Dr El-Labban.

Organised by Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions, the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress & Exhibition is the region's key healthcare event, bringing together leading international healthcare companies to showcase their latest products and services within the emergency, primary healthcare, patient safety, nursing and rehabilitation sectors, as well as being a platform for scientific exchange via the accompanying multi-track conference programme dedicated to these healthcare sectors. The event has expanded to 10,000sqm, with more than 150 exhibitors from 25 countries, 11CME-accredited conferences, and an estimated 6,000 attendees.


Categories: Family Medicine

Tags: adolescents, Eating Disorders, Healthcare


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