Spike in number of young Aussies seeking help online for body image and eating disorders during COVID-19 pandemic

15 Jul 2020

New data released from Butterfly Foundation and ReachOut show a sharp spike in the number of young people seeking help online when it comes to body image and eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

75 per cent more people visited ReachOut’s content about body image compared to the same time last year (March 16-30 June 2020 & 2019) and demand for support via Butterfly Foundation’s Helpline webchats has increased by 116 per cent in the last year. In addition, qualitative research by ReachOut (June 2020) demonstrates that young people’s concerns about body image has been amplified during isolation.

Juliette Thomson, Manager of Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline, said that there was a high demand for online support for eating disorders and body image issues, with an increase of 48 per cent in demand to the Helpline during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the same time last year.

‘The stress to adapt to the ‚Äònew normal’ has seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking help for an eating disorder via the Butterfly National Helpline. A change in routine, along with heightened levels of stress and uncertainty, and exposure to unhelpful social media and media messaging, can trigger a significant increase in eating disorder behaviours and thoughts.

‘Young people, in particular, have been seeking help via Butterfly’s online channels such as webchat and email in large numbers and we encourage anyone who is concerned about their own health or that of someone they know to seek help.’

Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut, said that even for those young people not suffering from an eating disorder, negative body image can have a big impact on their wellbeing and that there were many important things they could do to be body positive.

‘COVID-19 restrictions have had an enormous impact on the lives of young people and we know that one of the things they are finding tough in this moment is body image. Young people are telling us that their concerns are being sparked by things like changing routines and more limited access to their usual forms of exercise.

‘There are small things that young people can do each day to help them become more body positive which can have big impacts. Curating their social media news feed, surrounding themselves with people who make them feel good and focusing on what their body can do are all great places to start.’

For anyone concerned about an eating disorder, Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline is open every day between 8am and 12 midnight AEST - call 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE), connect via webchat, or email support@butterfly.org.au.

For support and resources when it comes to body image young people can head to ReachOut.com for information, tips and peer support forums.


Media Contacts

Tessa Anderssen / Media Manager, ReachOut / essa@reachout.com / 0411 708 587

Alex Cowen / Communications Manager, Butterfly Foundation / alex.cowen@butterfly.org.au / 0497 008 716



ReachOut is the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia. Their trusted self-help information, peer-support program and referral tools save lives by helping young people be well and stay well. The information they offer parents makes it easier for them to help their teenagers, too. ReachOut has been championing wider access to mental health support since they launched their online service more than 20 years ago. Everything they create is based on the latest evidence and is designed with experts, and young people or their parents. That’s why ReachOut is a trusted, relevant service that’s so easy to use. Accessed by more than 2 million people in Australia each year, ReachOut is a free service that’s available anytime and pretty much anywhere.



Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and those who care for them. Butterfly changes lives by providing innovative, evidence-based support services, treatment and resources; delivering prevention and early intervention programs; and advocating on behalf of its community. Butterfly’s National Helpline is staffed by qualified counsellors skilled in eating disorders and body image issues, who support more than 20,000 contacts each year via phone, email and webchat. Butterfly coordinates the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) for the Commonwealth Government Department of Health, and is committed to collaboration across the sector.