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Pandemic has fueled eating disorder surge in teens, adults

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Pandemic has fueled eating disorder surge in teens, adults

Many hospital beds are full. Waiting lists for outpatient treatment are bulging. And teens and adults seeking help for eating disorders are often finding it takes months to get an appointment.

The pandemic created treacherous conditions for eating disorders, leading to a surge of new cases and relapses that is not abating as restrictions are loosened and COVID-19 cases subside in many places, doctors and other specialists say.

“We are absolutely seeing massive increases,” said Jennifer Wildes, an associate psychiatry professor and director of an outpatient eating disorders program at the University of Chicago Medicine. Some patients are waiting four to five months to get treatment such as psychotherapy and sometimes medication. Waits usually lasted only a few weeks pre-pandemic, Wildes said.

Her program is treating about 100 patients, a near doubling since before the pandemic, she said.

The Emily Program, a University of Minnesota-affiliated eating disorders treatment program, is experiencing the same thing.

Daily calls from people seeking treatment have doubled, from roughly 60 in 2019 to up to 130 since the pandemic began, said dietitian Jillian Lampert, the program’s chief strategy officer.

’’We know that anxiety and isolation are typically very significant components of eating disorders,” she said.

Some patients say ’’my life feels out of control” because of the pandemic and they resort to binge eating as a coping mechanism, Lampert said. Others have taken the message ‘’don’t gain the pandemic 15’’ to the extreme, restricting their diets to the point of anorexia.

The program offers in-patient treatment and outpatient programs in several states, which switched to teletherapy when the pandemic began. That has continued, although some in-person treatment has resumed.

”We’ve seen an increase across the board,” in patients of all races, adult, teens and sometimes even young kids, she said. That includes LGBTQ people, who tend to have higher rates of eating disorders than other groups. Women and girls are more commonly affected than men.

Peyton Crest, an 18-year-old from Minnetonka, Minnesota, says she developed anorexia before the pandemic but has relapsed twice since it began.

She was already anxious and under pressure when school went online and social distancing began last year.

’’It was my junior year, I was about to apply for college,” she said. Suddenly deprived of friends and classmates, her support system, she’d spend all day alone in her room and became preoccupied with thoughts of food and anorexic behavior.

With her parents’ prodding, she got local treatment in June, but relapsed again in September and spent almost two months in a residential treatment center in Arizona.

Her school recently returned to in-person classes, she was accepted at Rhodes College in Memphis and Crest says she’s doing much better.

’’My mental health has improved immensely,” she said.

Wildes said her program has not seen a slow-down.

“People haven’t really gotten back to their routines,” she said, predicting that the surge in patients won’t subside until the fall.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, which started offering virtual therapist-led support groups for adults during the pandemic, has also seen a surge. Since January more than 7,000 people from every state and 32 countries have attended their support groups, said alliance CEO Johanna Kandel.

’’It’s like nothing we’ve seen before,” she said.

Hospitalizations are also up among teen girls with severe complications from eating disorders, mostly anorexia.

Eating disorders affect at least 9 percent of people worldwide. They will affect nearly 30 million Americans in their lifetimes and cause about 10,000 US deaths each year, according to data cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Anorexia, one of the more common eating disorders, typically involves restrictive eating habits and extreme thinness. It can cause abnormally low blood pressure and organ damage.

Bulimia, another eating disorder, includes eating large amounts of food followed by self-induced vomiting. Signs can include frequent use of laxatives and immediate trips to the bathroom after meals.

People of all races and ethnicities can be affected although there’s evidence doctors less frequently question people of color about eating disorders, according to the association.

An analysis of electronic medical records data from about 80 US hospitals found a 30 percent increase starting after March 2020, compared with data from the previous two years. There were 1,718 admissions for girls aged 12 to 18 through February, but no increase among boys.

The analysis was published in April in the Epic Health Research Network journal.

“The COVID pandemic has presented society and in particular adolescents with very, very significant psychological challenges. This has been a big event that has disrupted a lot of people’s lives in many ways and it may be months or years before we see all of the true impacts,” said Dr. Dave Little, a family physician and researcher at Epic who led the analysis.

He said the data should put parents and health care providers on the alert.

’’Talk to your kids, talk to your patients. Ensure that eating behaviors remain healthy and the sooner you get an indication that there may be an issue … the sooner you respond the better,” Little said.

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Europe carbon prices expected to soar amid tougher climate goals

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Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016.

LONDON – Carbon prices in the European Union’s emissions trading system are expected to rise significantly in the next decade due to tougher climate goals, market participants said in an industry survey published on Monday.

The EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) is the largest carbon market in the world, covering around 45% of the bloc’s output of greenhouse gases and charging emitters for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

The survey by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found members expect carbon prices in the EU ETS to average $57 a tonne between 2021 and 2025 and $71.06 a tonne between 2026 and 2030.

This is mainly due to a tougher EU goal of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Last year’s survey predicted an average price of 31.71 euros a tonne for the third phase of the ETS which runs from 2021 to 2030. Benchmark prices in the ETS currently trade around $64.24 a tonne.

Britain’s domestic emissions trading scheme started trading in May this year. The majority of survey respondents expect it will link with the EU scheme by 2023.

Participants anticipate that the average global carbon price needed by 2030 to put the world on track to meet goals to curb global temperature rise is $76.61 a tonne, up from last year’s expectation of $67.84 a tonne.

IETA’s members include banks, exchanges and energy and industrial firms. The association received responses from 158 member representatives for the survey.

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Chicago man jumps into Lake Michigan for 365th straight day

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Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," makes his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Chicago's Montrose Point.

CHICAGO — A Chicago bus driver looking for a way to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic jumped into Lake Michigan for a 365th straight day on Saturday.

Dan O’Conor said he started jumping into the lake at Montrose Harbor on the city’s North Side last year to relieve stress.

“It was during the pandemic, it was during the protest, it was during an election year. … So it was somewhere where I could come down here and block all that noise out and kind of be totally present with me in the lake, and find some moments of Zen,” said the father of three.

He continued jumping into the lake through the fall before the hard part: Hacking a hole in the ice on the frozen lake that was big enough for him to jump through during the winter. He said when he got home after one such jump, he found about 20 scrapes and cuts on his body.

Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," reacts after making his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Dan O’Conor, the “Great Lake Jumper,” reacts after making his 365th leap into Lake Michigan. He says he started as a way to “find some moments of Zen” during a tumultuous year.
AP

He was encouraged by the response he got for his undertaking.

“People started asking me what this was benefiting and how they could support — and when I say people, I’m talking strangers online, you know. When I started posting the videos on Twitter and Instagram … I got more wind in my sails there because people started commenting like, ’This makes my day, it’s nice to see this,” he said.

Saturday was special because it was the culmination of doing it for a full year.

“I just wanted to celebrate just that drive to dive for 365,” O’Conor said.

Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," shares a "High-5" with one of his well-wishers after his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Chicago's Montrose Point.
O’Conor celebrates with one of his well-wishers after his 365th leap into Lake Michigan.
AP

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Father of ‘world’s largest family’ dead at 76 in India

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FILE PHOTO: Ziona poses for a picture in Baktawng village in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram

The purportedly most prolific father in the world has passed away. 

Ziona Chana, 76, died on Sunday in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, the BBC reported. Chana, who was the head of a polygamist Christian sect, is survived by an estimated 38 wives, 89 children and 36 grandchildren — thus making him, by some reports, the head of the “world’s largest family” during his lifetime. 

“With heavy heart, #Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion…believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children,” Mizoram’s chief minister, Zoramthanga, tweeted in condolence on Sunday. “Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!”

Chana was declared dead on arrival at a hospital Sunday after deteriorating at his home, doctors told the news agency PTI, according to the BBC. He allegedly suffered from both diabetes and hypertension. 

During his extreme life, Chana made headlines across the globe, and he and his record-breakingly large family’s mansion in Baktawng Tlangnuam became a local attraction. The four-story, 100-room home features a dormitory shared by Chana’s wives, located close to his private bedroom, according to past media reports. 

ziona-chana-family
A view of Chana’s four-story house in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram on Oct. 6, 2011.
REUTERS

Reuters previously reported that Chana was born in 1945 and met his oldest wife, who’s three years his senior, at the age of 17. The sect he led, Chana Pawl, has approximately 2,000 followers and was founded by Chana’s grandfather in 1942. 

While Chana and his family have been twice featured on the TV series “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” others have challenged him to the title of most plentiful patriarch, and his alleged 181-person household’s exact number is difficult to confirm. 

“Reports are different. Quoting the last known accepted record with locally accepted picture. Thanks and regards !” Zoramthanga noted in a reply to his initial tweet. 

Chana at age 66 in 2011.

REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Family members of Ziona poses for group photograph outside their residence in village Baktawng

Family members of Chana pose for a group photograph outside their residence on Oct. 7, 2011.

REUTERS

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