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Are social media ads linked to the rise of eating disorders?

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Are social media ads linked to the rise of eating disorders?
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Have you seen online ads about weight loss or gym memberships recently? Around the new year, at the time when most take resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle, these ads are everywhere. And they can be dangerous.

Experts in the UK are warning about the danger of weight-related content and the rise of serious incidents linked to eating disorders.

Such ads can affect people with an eating disorder, or lead to vulnerable people developing one, they warn.

Hospital admission statistics in the UK show a steady rise in patients admitted over eating disorders and related mental health issues, from 14,000 in 2016-17 to 16,500 in 2017-18 and to 19,000 in 2018-19.

Politicians and celebrities have voiced concerns over this worrying trend.

"I am appalled at how easy it has been for young people to access online content that promote eating disorders", the British Health Minister Matt Hancock has said.

The comedian Jameela Jamil has launched a campaign against online ads from the diet industry.

"It's the 1st of January, which means the diet industry is doubling down on us, whether it wants us to 'lose weight' or 'bulk up'... I've already seen 60 adverts, it's relentless", she said in a video posted on her social media.

"Focus on your mental health", Jamil advised instead.

Tom Quinn, from the Beat charity against eating disorders, told Euronews that social media is a cause for concern, but the rise in hospital admissions suggest that there might be a bigger problem behind the scenes.

"We think the main reason why hospital admissions are on the rise is because people are not getting the help they need in the community," he said. "What we need to see is more investment, particularly for adult treatment, so that everyone gets the help they need as quickly as possible."