Eating Disorder Hospitalizations Up 48% During Pandemic, Study Finds – 05/11/2022

Systematic review published in International Journal of Eating Disorders suggests a 48% increase in eating disorder (ED) hospital admissions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 and TA

ED is a mental disorder characterized by eating or eating disorders that significantly impair physical and psychosocial health. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and restrictive/avoidant eating disorder are some examples of ED.

As you know, the covid-19 pandemic has had economic, financial, social and health consequences for many people. Although the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of the general population, it is likely to have particularly affected people with or at increased risk of developing AD.

Thus, the evidence suggests that people with atopic dermatitis have increased the number of hospitalizations during the pandemic.

It is believed that pandemic control measures, such as social isolation, may have contributed to the exacerbation of problem eating behavior and the subsequent increase in ED hospitalizations.

With this in mind, a research team led by Daniel J. Deveaux of the Matheson Mental Health Center at the University of Calgary, Canada, conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature on COVID-19 and ED.

The goal was to synthesize the impact of the pandemic on ED based on the hypothesis that people suffering from these mental health problems will have an exacerbation of their symptoms, an increase in hospital admissions, and a variation in BMI during the covid-19 pandemic compared to the previous one. pre-pandemic period.

Systematic review of covid-19 and ED analyzed 53 studies

The search was conducted against the following databases: CINAHL, Embase, Medline and PsycINFO, including studies from November 2019 to October 20, 2021.

The following inclusion criteria were considered: studies of people with ED (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, other specified eating disorders, binge eating disorder, restrictive avoidance eating disorder); with background data related to the covid-19 pandemic and AT; qualitative, quantitative, serial, transverse and longitudinal; written in any language; performed with people of all ages.

The systematic review included 53 studies involving 36,485 people with ED. Of these:

  • 3223 people suffered from anorexia nervosa;
  • 1203 bulimia nervosa;
  • 722 compulsive overeating;
  • 1243 other specified eating disorders;
  • 126 avoidant restrictive eating disorder;
  • 47 laxative disorder;
  • 25 day meal syndrome.

The median age of people with atopic dermatitis was 24.22 years, and the percentage of women living with this health problem was 90.3%.

The study suggests a 48% increase in hospitalizations for post-pandemic ED.

Eleven studies compared differences in hospitalization for AT before and during the pandemic. Percentage changes ranged from 0% to 123%. But on average, there was an increase in hospitalizations for AT by 48%. In absolute terms, there were 591 hospitalizations before the pandemic, and 876 after the pandemic.

In terms of pediatric hospitalizations, there was an increase of 83%, compared to 16% for adults. However, these data are likely underestimates as some studies have estimated hospitalizations soon after social isolation, such as two months, which is too short to adequately estimate hospitalizations.

In this review, 36% of the studies (19 of them) documented an increase in ED symptoms during the pandemic, and 15% (eight studies) showed changes in BMI and weight. An increase in anxiety was also observed in nine studies and depression in eight.

With regard to social distancing measures, results have been mixed, with some patients experiencing worsening conditions and difficulty accessing health services, while others report improvements.

For example, one study found that some participants got better while others got worse during lockdown. In two other studies, patients with anorexia nervosa had fewer symptoms and gradually gained weight, while patients with bulimia nervosa had fewer binge episodes during this period.

Qualitative research has shown the positive and negative elements of the covid-19 pandemic for AT.

Fourteen articles analyzed were qualitative or mixed studies. Of these 14 studies, 11 reported restrictions on access to care or changes in treatment. It was observed that treatment for ED was reduced or delayed, or that patients faced barriers in seeking medical care.

In some studies, people with ED have reported positive perceptions of telemedicine or remote treatment, while others have acknowledged limitations, including technical problems or stress in managing their own weight.

In four studies, media reports were considered as a contributing factor to the worsening of ED symptoms. Some of them showed that social networks and traditional media focused their information on the fear of gaining weight, physical activity, healthy eating during the pandemic and diet, factors identified as stressors and triggers.

Social isolation and associated feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression were reported by participants in seven studies as contributing to worsening of ED symptoms.

Despite the overall negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, seven more studies showed positive results. Some patients reported that throughout the pandemic, social distancing measures allowed them to use their free time for self-care, self-reflection, protection from previous triggers, and increased social support.

The study is limited but provides useful information about AT and covid-19.

The authors of the article caution that there are many important limitations to be aware of when interpreting the results of a systematic review. For example, they believe that the quality of the included studies is not very good and that they have many heterogeneous characteristics, making it difficult or preclude statistical analysis of some points.

In any case, these results highlight gaps in current research and may help develop interventions to best prevent or treat ED, as well as provide useful information to health services and governments to prepare. …for future pandemics or similar moments.

ED is a growing, complex, and delicate mental health problem, and it is critical to prevent it, treat it properly, and be prepared for situations that can make it worse.

So if food has been a source of suffering for you, feel free to seek out professionals to help you take care of your physical and mental health, which includes cultivating a peaceful relationship with food and with your body.

Sophie Deram

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