Giving Compass' Take:
- Beata Mostafavi examines the reasons behind the spike in eating disorder hospitalizations for adolescents during the pandemic.
- What are the root causes of the rise in eating disorder hospitalizations for adolescents? How can funders begin to address the effects of the pandemic on mental health?
- Learn about the signs of eating disorders.
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The number of adolescents admitted to the hospital for severe illness from eating disorders increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.
At one center, the number of hospital admissions among adolescents with eating disorders more than doubled during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the study.
The 125 hospitalizations among patients ages 10-23 at Michigan Medicine in those 12 months reflect a significant increase over previous years. Admissions related to eating disorders during the same timeframe between 2017 and 2019 averaged 56 per year.
“These findings emphasize how profoundly the pandemic has affected young people, who experienced school closures, cancelled extracurricular activities, and social isolation. Their entire worlds were turned upside down overnight,” says Alana Otto, an adolescent medicine physician at the and lead author of the paper in the journal Pediatrics.
“For adolescents with eating disorders and those at risk for eating disorders, these significant disruptions may have worsened or triggered symptoms.”
Changes in Day-to-Day Life
The numbers may represent only a fraction of those with eating disorders the pandemic affects, researchers say, as they only included young people whose severe illness led to hospitalization.
“Our study suggests that the negative mental health effects of the pandemic could be particularly profound among adolescents with eating disorders,” Otto says. “But our data doesn’t capture the entire picture. These could be really conservative estimates.”
The study also suggests the rate of admissions at the institution steadily increased over time during the first year of the pandemic. The highest rates of admissions per month occurred between nine and 12 months after the pandemic began, with rates continuing to climb when the study period ended in March 2021.
Restrictive eating disorders include anorexia nervosa and may be marked by dietary restriction, excessive exercise, and/or purging to lose weight.
Read the full article about eating disorder hospitalizations by Beata Mostafavi at Futurity.