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Mental Health

Girls make up vast majority of young people seeking psychiatric help for eating disorders

Some 87% of people under the age of 18 presenting with eating disorders are female.

THE MAJORITY OF girls and young women admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals in Ireland are treated for eating disorders.

New figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) show that there were 503 admissions to all hospital types for under 18s in 2015, an increase of 67 since 2014.

The Activities of Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals 2015 report shows that 17,860 people were admitted to hospital for psychiatric care last year overall, a small increase from 17,797 in 2014.

There were 407 admissions to dedicated child and adolescent units for people under the age of 18. There were 96 admissions to adult units and hospitals for under 18s; 54 were aged 17 years, 33 were aged 16 years, six were aged 15 years, and three were aged 13 years or younger.

Some 60% of all and 58% of first admissions for under 18s were female.

Eating disorders and depression 

Depressive disorders accounted for 32% of all and 33% of first admissions for under 18s, 13% had a diagnosis of neurosis, 12% had a diagnosis of eating disorders and 9% had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Females accounted for 65% of all admissions with a primary admission diagnosis of depressive disorders, 87% of admissions with eating disorders, and 58% of admissions with neuroses.

Males accounted for 59% with a primary admission diagnosis of schizophrenia and 93% of admissions with other drug disorders.

Some 85% of under 18s admitted in 2015 were discharged in 2015. The average length of stay for those admitted and discharged in 2015 was 41 days.

Of those admitted and discharged in 2015, 19% were discharged within one week of admission, 9% were discharged within one to two weeks, 17% were discharged within two to four weeks, 45% were discharged within one to three months, and almost 10% were discharged within three months to one year.


Overall, admission rates to hospitals were highest for county Wicklow at 497.7 per 100,000, followed by Roscommon at 485.4, Sligo at 452.6 and Donegal at 437.5. Monaghan had the lowest rate of all admissions at 211.6 per 100,000.

Dr Graham Love, HRB chief executive, said the report “provides essential data to inform decision-making in relation to planning for mental health services”.

The report shows a small increase in admissions from 17,797 in 2014 to 17,860 in 2015. First admissions also increased by 172, from 5,942 in 2014 to 6,114 in 2015. However, looking at trends over time, there has been a 12% decline in total admissions in the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015, from 20,288 in 2006 to 17,860 in 2015.

The number of re-admissions has also shown a decline, dropping 20% from 14,687 in 2006 to 11,746 in 2015. First admissions increased by 9% over the same period of time, from 5,601 in 2006 to 6,114 in 2015.

Information on support available to people suffering from eating disorders can be found on the Bodywhys website.

Suicide helplines:
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email - (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: ‘It’s like a death’: Divorced people are at higher risk of psychiatric illness in Ireland

Read: 89% increase in middle-aged people seeking help for eating disorders

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