New research shows families and carers of those with eating disorders are desperate for support, understanding and connection

Families and carers of those living with an eating disorder are desperate for non-judgmental connection with new research finding this is the main reason for joining an eating disorder carer support group. 

Research undertaken by the University of Melbourne, Deakin University and Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) found families and carers were also seeking support and understanding of what they were going through as well as new skills to help care for their loved one with an eating disorder. 

The research found 81% of the carers surveyed wanted to connect with other carers; 74% were seeking more support and understanding; and 77% wanted to learn eating disorder caring skills.

“Without carers, there is no recovery,” EDFA Research Committee Chair and Associate Professor Genevieve Pepin said. 

“Families and carers often have little knowledge of how to provide effective support to their loved one when they are diagnosed with an eating disorder. 

“They often face stigma and a lack of understanding from the broader community and struggle alone. This research shows how important it is that families and carers have quick and easy contact with other carers.” 

The research, entitled ‘Striving to Support the Supporters: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the strive Support Groups for Caregivers of Individuals with an Eating Disorder’, surveyed 115 of EDFA’s members and was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the not-for-profit’s online lived experience National Support Program. 

The benefits of attending support groups aimed at families and carers was clear in the study. It found 83% of participants felt less isolated in caring for their loved one as a result, while 81% felt more supported and 76% felt more confident. 

“Families and carers are the front line of care and are crucial to their loved one’s recovery,” EDFA Executive Director Jane Rowan said. “EDFA’s support program provides a safe place for carers to learn and share. Without this, their own wellbeing can suffer and that places their loved one’s recovery at risk.”  

Brisbane-based carer Sarah Lovell said it was difficult to focus on her own wellbeing while caring for her daughter with Anorexia Nervosa. 

“You are so focussed on getting your loved one well that you don’t recognise what is happening to your own mental health,” said Sarah, who works as a mental health nurse. 

The research found 46% of the respondents showed mild to extremely severe anxiety, compared with 32% of the general population. It also found 52% showed mild to extremely severe depression, compared with 51%. More than 50% of respondents described their caring activities as a 24/7 commitment. 

More information about the research:  

  • 76% of those surveyed were caring for loved ones who had been in hospital or residential care,
  • 90% of respondents were satisfied with EDFA’s support groups,
  • 74% of the respondents were caring for someone with Anorexia Nervosa or Atypical Anorexia Nervosa (11%); 9% were caring for someone with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID); and 2.7% were caring for someone with Bulimia Nervosa.
  • The research was conducted via an online survey and focus groups. 

Associate Professor Genevieve Pepin and Ms Jane Rowan are all available for interviews. 

Genevieve 03 5227 8462 or

Jane 0408 780 292 or