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There's been a 66% increase in eating disorder hospital admissions during pandemic in Ireland

That’s according to an article published in this month’s Irish Medical Journal.

Image: Shutterstock/sdecoret

THERE HAS BEEN a sharp increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders (EDs) during the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland. 

An article published in this month’s Irish Medical Journal notes that there was a 66% increase in hospital admissions for EDs in 2020 compared to 2019. 

The authors said that a number of factors likely play a role in this significant increase, including distress, anxiety relating to the pandemic, pre-existing morbidity, the interplay of social and economic factors, the impact of restrictions, and losses of protective factors. 

“Social restrictions may mean some young people are less able to engage with protective factors. More online time, for example, may facilitate increased exposure to ED-specific or anxiety-provoking media,” paper authors Elizabeth Barrett and Sarah Richardson, of Temple St Children’s Hospital and UCD School of Medicine, said. 

“There may be an impact on young people’s view of their own health, and may increase ED symptoms specifically related to health concerns,” they said. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out if people with eating disorders are being failed by the public health system. Support this project here. 

The HSE National Clinical Programme for Eating Disorders applies across all age ranges and focuses on the four main eating disorders – Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. 

The authors added that “adequate resourcing of psychological medicine teams at paediatric sites, and the training of paediatricians with an interest in this arena, are vital and urgent needs”. 

They also emphasised the importance of community mental health services. 

In terms of planning for a post-pandemic world, they said that the “implementation of the National Eating Disorder programme, with specialist community-based teams offering a range of interventions with crucial and critical mass of experience, would be a good start”. 

This would be complemented by the planned new paediatric hospital, in their opinion. 

However, the authors warned that given the recognised knowledge gap in this area, there is recognition of the need for paediatricians and allied health professionals to develop skills in mental health. 

“Perhaps the pandemic, and new ways of working, present an opportunity to develop truly collaborative working relationships and new ways to meet training and teaching needs to improve paediatric eating disorder care,” they said. 

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