Using the electronic health records of over 5 million people aged under 30, researchers from the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre found that eating disorders were diagnosed significantly more commonly in 2020 than in previous years, with the rate increasing steadily throughout the year.
This new research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, shows the increase was greatest for anorexia nervosa, and for teenage girls. In addition, a higher proportion of the people diagnosed with an eating disorder had suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.
Dr Max Taquet, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow and lead author of the study, said:
‘These large-scale data confirm the concern of clinicians that eating disorders have become more common during the pandemic.’
Professor Paul Harrison, who supervised the research, said:
‘Although the data are mostly from the USA, we assume the findings are similar in the UK. We now need research to understand the reasons for the increase, and to monitor the trends as the pandemic continues.’
To read the full study, Incidence and outcomes of eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.