Societal pressure

Stigma surrounding eating disorders fuels crisis in Japan

Women take part in a fashion model audition in Tokyo. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

Hundreds of thousands of people suffering from eating disorders in Japan are not receiving medical or psychological support, according to the Japan Society for Eating Disorders. While doctors believe the prevalence of eating disorders in Japan is “comparable with that of the U.K.,” only 10,000 people received treatment for eating disorders in 2014, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health. In the same year in the U.K., a country with almost half the population of Japan, 725,000 people received treatment.

There is no family doctor referral system in Japan, meaning sufferers for the most part must seek psychiatric support themselves, and stigma around eating disorders is believed to be preventing most sufferers and their families from coming forward. According to Dr. Toshio Ishikwa, president of the Japan Society for Eating Disorders, by the time most patients go to a hospital, “Their condition is very severe. Sometimes they are even close to death.”

Ishikwa has said that societal pressure plays a large part in driving women and girls to become unhealthily slim. La Farfa, a new magazine aimed at “plus-size” girls — Japan’s first and only such magazine — hopes to combat this trend by encouraging positive body image.

Read the full story at BBC News.

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