Last July, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Member of the European Parliament for Spain, issued a question for written answer to the Commission in which she claimed that
bulimia and anorexia are among the main health problems facing society today. The average age of those affected ranges from 12 to 25, and such disorders are most common among young people aged between 12 and 17. The situation is alarming: 8% of those affected start before the age of 10.
Some websites and advertising condone behaviour that has a strong impact on young people and children, who are particularly vulnerable. Such advertising creates and promotes a set of unreal and obsessive standards and norms. The methods proposed in order to attain these standards are often unhealthy and indeed unnatural, and they result in children and adolescents suffering from eating disorders.
Therefore, the MP enquired whether the Commission considered desirable to introduce a European legislation against websites and advertisement which indirectly promote such a set of wrong values and standards and whether the Commission was investing more resources for social, health and education-based solutions.
The Commission replied in September stating that a number of activities and projects promoted by the Commission are already facing the problem of eating disorders and that
the Commission is not planning to develop European rules or organise awareness-raising campaigns on eating disorders, as this would fall under the responsibility of Member States.
The Merriam-Webster defines Anorexia Nervosa as
a serious disorder in eating behaviour primarily of young women in their teens and early twenties that is characterized especially by a pathological fear of weight gain leading to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition, and usually excessive weight loss.
In addition to that, we should never forget that anorexia, along with other eating disorders such as bulimia, is a psychological disorder whose effects hit largely the body.
As Estaràs underlined, this pathology affects young men and women. This implies that such individuals might have not yet developed a full maturity to understand the risks to which they are subjected by anorexia and are therefore vulnerable. And this vulnerability might be easily intensified by the internet. As a matter of fact, typing the word “anorexia” on Google, the third suggestion is “anorexia tips” and at the bottom of the page the searches related to anorexia are “anorexia pictures”, “anorexia tips”, “pro anorexia” and “pro ana.” All these denominations usually indicate one concept: pro ana. Pro ana blogs and websites, managed by individuals affected by anorexia at different stages, promote anorexia as a religion or cult to be indulged in and supported and they give extreme tips and suggestions to lose weight, on how to behave in a restaurant, post images of skinny girls from whom they are inspired.
The behaviours promoted by such blogs and websites are extremely dangerous, both for those already suffering from anorexia and also for those young people who are more sensitive or have difficulties in accepting their own body etc. For instance, in one of these blogs, called Thin Intensions, you can find a long list of tips to avoid eating. On another blog, you can find tricks and excuses to use with other people in order to make them believe that you are not hungry or have already eaten.
Along the years, a number of online petitions were signed and a number of campaigns promoted to ban pro ana websites along with advertisement pictures which showed girls who were too thin. Nevertheless, such websites still exist on the net and, in some cases, advertisement still shows models whose skinny bodies do not promote or suggest a healthy life style.
Therefore, it would be desirable to have European campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, along with integrated investments aiming at curing those who are affected by anorexia or bulimia, and a joint operation of all the Member States to ban pro ana websites.