Baroness Joan Bakewell has come under fire for her comments on eating disorders amongst teen girls. “No one has anorexia in societies where there is not enough food,” Bakewell said in an interview with The Sunday Times yesterday. The revered 82-year-old broadcaster and Labour Peer also said that the illness was “a sign of the overindulgence of our society, over-introspection, narcissism.”
According to Bakewell, anorexia is a symptom of the “way [young] people have become very self-regarding. I am alarmed by anorexia among young people, which arises presumably because they are preoccupied with being beautiful and healthy and thin.”
She continued, “They do not have anorexia in the camps in Syria. I think it's possible anorexia could be about narcissism.”
Bakewell’s comments have been criticised by mental health charities, who suggest they display a lack of understanding of the condition. Time to Change, a charity that works to end stigma around mental health, released a statement saying “Anorexia, just like any other mental health problem, is a genuine and debilitating condition, with complex causes”.
In the furore of the reaction to Bakewell’s comments on social media, Bakewell tweeted, “If I've stirred a public discussion about anorexia... Good. Let's have more research and information”.
When asked on Twitter if she had been misquoted or misinterpreted, she replied "Misinterpreted: I am deeply sad that young people get anorexia and was speculating loosely about what might cause it."
The BBC reports that earlier this year David Cameron pledged to ensure teenagers with eating disorders would receive treatment more quickly.