Eating disorders more than doubled among young people during the Covid pandemic, reveals new research.
Visits to the emergency room and hospital admissions for issues such as anorexia and bulimia increased 120 percent among 10 to 17-year-olds, according to the findings.
Researchers compared observed and expected rates of hospital visits and admissions among 10 to 17-year-olds, 18 to 26-year-olds, 27 to 40-year-olds and adults over the age of 40 in Canada for the three years before the pandemic and the COVID-19 period from March 2020 to the end of August 2022.
They discovered that the observed rate of hospital visits for eating disorders in adolescents in the 30 months after the start of the pandemic was 7.38 per 100,000, a 121 percent increase over the expected rate.
The rate of hospital visits among young adults increased 13 percent above expected to 2.79 per 100,000 but was near expected among adults aged 27 to 40 years old.
The rate of hospital admissions among adolescents increased 54 percent to 8.82 per 100,000 but was at expected or lower across all adult age groups.
Study co-author Dr. Alene Toulany said: “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,”
She said additional issues that may have contributed to the rise in eating disorders include concern about health and exercise with the closure of gyms and other opportunities for physical activity and household stress.
The research team recommended more investment in eating disorder programs for adolescents and adults.
Dr. Toulany, an adolescent medicine specialist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said: “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.”
She added: “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.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker