Joan Bakewell 'deeply sorry' over anorexia comments

Joan Bakewell

Labour peer Joan Bakewell says she is "deeply sorry" for causing "distress" by suggesting the rise of eating disorders among teenagers was a sign of "narcissism" in society.

She told The Sunday Times "no one has anorexia in societies where there is not enough food", and it was a sign of "the overindulgence of our society".

Campaigners criticised her comments, saying anorexia had complex causes.

The broadcaster, 82, later tweeted she was "full of regret".

She added: "I have spent 6 hours answering tweets. I did not expect the [Sunday Times] to quote my views on anorexia and am full of regret that my reported views have caused distress. I am deeply sorry.

"I am tired now and taking a break from Twitter. Goodnight everyone."

'Speculating loosely'

Earlier, asked by one Twitter user if she had been misquoted or misinterpreted by the newspaper article, she replied: "Misinterpreted: I am deeply sad that young people get anorexia and was speculating loosely about what might cause it."

Baroness Bakewell told the newspaper that anorexia was "one example of the way [young] people have become very self-regarding".

She said: "I am alarmed by anorexia among young people, which arises presumably because they are preoccupied with being beautiful and healthy and thin.

"No one has anorexia in societies where there is not enough food.

"They do not have anorexia in the camps in Syria. I think it's possible anorexia could be about narcissism."

Image copyright Emma Ailes

Baroness Bakewell's comments prompted a response from Time to Change, a mental health anti-stigma campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink.

A spokeswoman said: "Anorexia, just like any other mental health problem, is a genuine and debilitating condition, with complex causes.

"The stigma and misunderstanding surrounding these issues only makes life harder for people going through them - so what we need is increased understanding and support."

In response to criticism from one parent on Twitter, Baroness Bakewell said: "It's not your daughter who's narcissistic: it's the culture."

She also went on to tweet: "If I've stirred a public discussion about anorexia... Good. Let's have more research and information."

Rising hospital admissions

The NHS describes anorexia as a "serious mental health condition", which can affect both men and women.

It also cites missing meals, taking appetite suppressants and having physical problems such as feeling lightheaded and having dry skin as among its symptoms.

Hospital admissions for eating disorders in England have been increasing, figures suggest.

In the 12 months to October 2013 there were 2,560 admissions, which was an 8% rise on the previous year, statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show.

There were nine times more females than males taken to hospital, and the most common age for female admissions was 15 years old.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has previously said that increases in hospital admissions could be down to social pressure made worse by online images.

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