COVID-19’s Impact on Acute Care Visits by Young Patients

A startling rise in admissions was traced to the pandemic.

A recent study gives us a clearer perspective on increasing pediatric acute care visits for eating disorders. When Dr. Alène Toulany and her fellow researchers in Toronto, Canada, compared the rates of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for pediatric eating disorders before and during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, they found marked increases during the pandemic (J Adolesc Health. 2021. 70:42). Acute care visits increased immediately after the onset of the pandemic, and reached a 4-week peak annualized rate of 34.6 per 100,000 population(emergency department visits), or 43.2 per 100,000 population (hospitalizations), in October 2020, according to the authors.

The patient population surveyed by the authors included almost 2.5 million children and youths younger than 18 years of age.

Underlying factors at play

The Toronto researchers theorize that the rise in acute ED admissions among children and teens in Canada may be related to increased anxiety and feelings of loss of control, triggering ED behaviors. Others have suggested that changes in opportunities to exercise, fear of weight gain, increased time spent using social media, and increased stress within the children’s and teens’ families all may have also contributed to the rise in acute ED-related visits.

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