Hospitalizations for eating disorders doubled last year, study finds

U.S. hospitalizations for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia doubled in May 2020 — about two months after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency, a study published Nov. 16 in JAMA Network Open found. 

Researchers examined healthcare trends related to eating disorders from 2018 through the end of 2020, looking at data from more than 3.2 million people. 

Through April 2020, the number of patients who received inpatient care stayed about the same at 0.3 per 100,000 people per month. In May 2020, the rate doubled to 0.6 per 100,000 per month. Researchers said the increase was seen across anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. 

Between June and December of 2020, the median length of stay for patients receiving care for eating disorders also rose, to 12 days. During the same period in 2018 and 2019, the median lengths of stay were 9 days and 8 days, respectively. 

The number of patients seen in outpatient settings for eating disorders also increased, from about 25 people per 100,000 per month to 29 per 100,000. 

Researchers cited several possible explanations for why the pandemic may have prompted the increases, such as obesity being a frequently cited risk factor for COVID-19 and large-quantity food purchases in order to avoid the grocery store for fear of catching COVID-19.. 


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