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Hospitalizations for eating disorders increased during COVID-19

2023 Oct 04, 17:23, WASHINGTON

New research found that emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions for eating disorders increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in adolescents aged 10-17 years, as did ED visits among young adults and older adults.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Using ICES data, researchers compared observed and expected rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for eating disorders in adolescents (10-17 years), young adults (18-26 years), adults (27-40 years), and older adults (41-105 years) before (Jan. 1, 2017, to Feb. 29, 2020) and during the pandemic (Mar. 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2022).

In the 30 months following the start of the pandemic, the observed rate of ED visits for eating disorders in adolescents was 7.38 per 100,000, a 121 per cent increase over the expected rate.

The rate of ED visits among young people climbed 13 per cent over expectations to 2.79 per 100,000 but was close to the expected rate among individuals aged 27-40 years.

Adolescent hospital admissions jumped 54 per cent to 8.82 per 100,000 but were at or below predicted levels across all adult age categories.

"A combination of risk factors — including isolation, increased time on social media, extended time spent with family, decreased access to care and fear of infection — may contribute to an increased risk of development or exacerbation of an eating disorder," wrote Dr. Alene Toulany, an adolescent medicine specialist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and adjunct scientist at ICES, Toronto, Ontario, with coauthors.

Concerns about health and exercise, as a result of the closure of gyms and other chances for physical activity, and home stress may also have contributed to the rise in eating disorders.

The authors advocate for increased funding for eating disorder programmes for adolescents and adults, as well as additional research.

"Our findings reveal significant variations in the utilization of acute care services for eating disorders across different age groups. This highlights the need for a nuanced approach to allocating mental health resources and expanding system capacity and resources dedicated to both adolescent and adult eating disorder programs," said Dr. Toulany.

"Further research is needed to determine the degree to which the surge in acute presentations is attributable to new eating disorders or exacerbation of pre-existing eating disorders," the authors concluded. 


hospital admissions eating disorders covid-19 pandemic adolescents Mental Health Physical Activity
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