Finance issues and eating disorders linked in female students

A study carried out by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust has revealed that female students with financial difficulties are more likely to develop eating disorders. It also found that having extreme attitudes to food could lead female students to short-term financial problems, resulting in a “vicious cycle”.

The study of 400 undergraduates from universities throughout the UK asked students to respond to statements such as: “I feel extremely guilty after eating” and “I am preoccupied with a desire to be thinner”.

Borrowing money and being unable to afford heating were examples of financial difficulties stated. Additionally, female students who come from less affluent backgrounds were at a higher risk of developing eating disorders.

Rosanna Hardwick, a spokesperson for Student Minds, said: “Students face a lot of pressures at university. Many are living independently for the first time, away from the core family unit, having to deal with loneliness, lack of sleep and managing finances among other things.

“We want to make sure the right support is in place to deal with health issues. We provide peer support networks as a confidential space for all students with trained volunteers. We look to integrate our support with the university support, as well as that of the NHS to make sharing these problems as easy as possible”.

Dr Thomas Richardson, who led the study claimed: “It may be that those at higher risk of having an eating disorder feel like they have no control over events in their life, such as their financial situation, and they may then restrict their eating as a way of exercising control in other areas of their life”.

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Caitlin Doherty comments:

There is a growing correlation between eating disorders and poverty at university. This in itself is a worrying statement but it also highlights many of society’s stigmas in regards to mental health.

In terms of university, such an issue can have diverse effects on grades – but the problem may go ignored. If there was an accident with physical and visible consequences, a student would undoubtedly be allowed time off from university to recover. At the very least they would be granted special dispensation for any work handed in during that period. The lack of physical signs of mental health issues means conditions often go unnoticed.

However, sadly this information isn’t getting wide enough coverage. The fact of the matter is that we don’t care as much about mental illness in comparison to physical illness.

We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and accept the fact that there is more to learn about mental health, and that more needs to be done to help those living with it.


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January 2022
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