There has been a significant rise in the number of young people — under 20 — being hospitalised for eating disorders in England as a result of the Covid pandemic, the media reported. The number of under-20 admitted for eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, in the last year topped 3,200 – nearly 50 per cent higher than in 2019-20, the BBC reported, citing data from data from NHS Digital. Besides new cases, the hospitals are also seeing a deterioration in many youngsters who had already been diagnosed with those conditions.
The pandemic last year has “taken its toll” on young people, NHS England mental health director Claire Murdoch was quoted as saying. Murdoch said services were treating more children and young people than “ever before” and the NHS was bringing in new targets to improve performance across mental health services.
According to mental health charities, the pandemic, particularly the lockdowns, has had a devastating impact on vulnerable young people, which increased their anxiety and isolation — leading to the disorders, the report said.
“For those who already had an eating disorder their illness has worsened, more people have developed an eating disorder for the first time and others who thought they had recovered from their eating disorder have relapsed,” Tom Quinn, from eating disorders charity Beat, was quoted as saying.
“We have seen a huge increase in demand for our helpline, with many talking about increased anxiety, isolation and lack of support as factors,” he added.
Further, the specialist community-based services for young people, which is vital to keep people out of hospital is struggling to keep up with rising demand.
More than 3,000 young people starting treatment each month, up from just over 2,000 before the pandemic began. As a result, the number of young people on the waiting list now tops 1,500, three times higher than was the case before the pandemic, the report said.
“Many children and young people are presenting later with more complex symptoms which are often harder, and take longer, to treat,” Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers was quoted as saying.