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Eating Disorders

More than three-fold increase in number of children being admitted for eating disorders

The number of psychiatric admissions related to eating disorders increased from 33 in 2018 to 116 in 2021.

THERE’S BEEN A more than three-fold increase in the number of psychiatric admissions related to eating disorders among children and adolescents.

The number of cases related to eating disorders have increased from 33 in 2018 to 116 in 2021, with females accounting for 96% of admissions.

That’s according to the latest figures from the Health Research Board (HRB).

The findings are contained in the National Psychiatric Inpatient Reporting System, which is compiled from data supplied by Ireland’s 66 approved psychiatric units and hospitals.

Across all categories, there were 509 psychiatric admissions for those aged under 18 last year, an increase on the 486 admissions in 2020.

Contained in this figure were 29 admissions for under 18s to adult units and hospitals.

Depressive disorder continues to be the most common diagnosis for those aged under 18, with it being the main diagnoses in 30% of cases.

This was followed by eating disorders, which was the main diagnoses last year for 23% of cases, up from 18% in 2020.

10% of admissions were related to schizophrenia.

Females made up 72% of this total figure, while 14% were 14-years-old or younger.

Meanwhile, males accounted for 92% of admissions for drug disorders.

HRB Chief Executive Mairead O’Driscoll said the figures “shed valuable light… on the continued rise in admissions related to eating disorders in younger age groups”.

She expressed hope that the data can “provide a solid evidence basis for policy and practice” and “help deliver the right resources to those who need them”.

Antoinette Daly is Research Officer at the HRB and co-author of the report.

She noted that “admissions of young people would typically be female, aged 17, with a diagnosis of a depressive or eating disorder”.

Among all age groups, there were 15,723 admissions to Irish psychiatric units and hospitals last year, an increase of 332 on the 2020 figure (15,391). 

Overall, there was an equal proportion of male and female admissions and adult admissions were more likely to be single, unemployed, and diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

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