Numbers admitted to hospital with an eating disorder have soared during pandemic

Lauren Clark
·2-min read
Those requiring emergency in-patient stays have doubled in four years, new data shows. (Getty Images)
Those requiring emergency in-patient stays have doubled in four years, new data shows. (Getty Images)

The way in which the pandemic has triggered or exacerbated eating disorders has come to the forefront in recent weeks – in large part due to Nikki Grahame's untimely death aged 38 from anorexia.

And the latest NHS Digital data shows by how much cases have soared in the past year, with record numbers being admitted to hospital for help.

Those requiring in-patient treatment have doubled in four years, according to The Sunday Times.

In 2016, 9,407 women and girls, and 911 men and boys, were admitted in England.

Read more: Nikki Grahame’s mum says her anorexia spiralled in lockdown

However, between December 2019 and December 2020, there were 20,176 admissions of women and girls, and 1,825 of men and boys.

There was a peak in November, just as the country locked down again as the second coronavirus wave took hold.

The rise in admissions for eating disorders during the pandemic – up 6% in a year – is even more stark given that there was an overall decline in emergency admissions due to a trend that saw many non-coronavirus patients stay away from hospital.

According to NHS Digital, approximately 4% of adults in England currently have an eating disorder.

Read more: Andrew Flintoff opens up about battle with bulimia in BBC documentary

One form, anorexia, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

It was this condition that recently took the life of former Big Brother contestant Nikki Grahame, who died earlier this month.

After an eating disorder battle that stemmed from childhood, her mother Sue told the Telegraph that she had deteriorated during lockdown.

Eating disorder charity Beat has revealed that demand for its helpline soared by 173 per cent between February 2020 and January 2021.

Read more: Teenage girls suffering from anxiety could be at a greater risk of developing eating disorders, study finds

Tom Quinn, the organisation's director of external affairs, said: "We know the pandemic has been particularly difficult for people affected by eating disorders.

"It is not surprising, as those affected and their families have had to cope with extreme changes to their daily routines, support networks and care plans, all while also dealing with the additional stress the pandemic has brought."

In December, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warned parents of a sharp rise in children with eating disorders.

They suggested that isolation from friends during school closures and postponement of extra-curricular activities, as well as increased social media use and stress at home, may have contributed.

If topics in this article have affected you, help and support is available from Beat Eating Disorders on 0808 201 1677, or 0808 801 0711 for young people