A recent survey of 1000 people with eating disorders in the US (n=511) and the Netherlands (n=510) has provided an early view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with eating disorders. The abstract was published in medRxiv, a leading source for rapid dissemination of research results during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those with AN, who made up 62% of US participants and 69% of those in the Netherlands, reported higher levels of restriction and were fearful about finding foods that fit their meal plans. In the study, headed by Dr. Jet D. Termorshuizen, binge-eating episodes and urges to binge-eat both increased among those with BN and BED. Importantly, patients also reported positive effects of the pandemic, including greater connection with family members, more time for self-care, and increasing motivation to recover.
The surge in people seeking help in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic reflects the fact that eating disorders thrive in isolation. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has reported a 78% increase in the number of calls to their organization, and online chats, compared to the year before. And, even before the pandemic struck, in the year from 2018 to 2019, researchers reported nearly 54,000 emergency department visits due to eating disorders, at a cost of $29 million. During the same time, 10,200 deaths were directly related to eating disorders.