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Huge rise in admissions for eating disorders

Children and teens account for more than half of the total in England

Louise Prime

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Hospital admissions for eating disorders have risen by 16% in only a year, show figures released this morning. Children and adolescents accounted for well over half, and 15-year-old girls alone accounted for nearly one in ten of the total.

For the year to June, hospitals in England recorded a total of 2290 admissions for eating disorders, a 16% rise on the previous 12 months. Of these, an increasing proportion were children and teenagers 10-19 years old – 55%, compared with 49% of such admissions in the previous year.

When the admissions data were broken down by the patient’s age, nearly 10% of all admissions for eating disorders were of girls aged 15, a small year-on-year increase.

Compared with admissions overall in England, people admitted for eating disorders had a longer average hospital stay. Although a quarter (26%) were discharged on the day of admission, one in 20 stayed in hospital for six months or more. Very few (only 8%) underwent any kind of procedure during their spell in hospital, compared with more than a third (36%) of all admissions in England.

The report also shows that in the year to June 2012:

  • eating disorder admissions increased on the previous 12-month period relatively more than admissions overall (16%, compared with a 1% rise in all admissions)
  • women accounted for 91% of all eating disorder admissions, compared with 88% in the previous year
  • anorexia accounted for 74% of eating disorder admissions, bulimia for 7% and ‘other eating disorders’ (such as overeating or vomiting associated with other psychological disturbances) for the remaining 19%
  • the region with the highest number of eating disorder admissions by population size was the North East at 5.8 per 100,000 (150 admissions); but by total admissions, the highest number occurred in London at 440 (5.6 per 100,000).

Chief executive of the Information Centre for Health and Social Care, Tim Straughan, said: “It might be assumed that a person suffering with an eating disorder is cared for in the community through primary services rather than in hospital; with activity in secondary care only part of a bigger picture.

“However our figures do suggest that hospitals in England are admitting a greater number of eating disorder cases than in previous years.

“The data point to a relatively small but nevertheless significant rise in child admissions for the treatment of an eating disorder. This information will be of interest and concern to health professionals and the public alike.”

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