THURSDAY, Dec. 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The number of patients receiving inpatient or outpatient care for eating disorders has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a research letter published online Nov. 16 in JAMA Network Open.

David A. Asch, M.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined trends in health care for eating disorders from 2018 through 2020 alongside other common behavioral health conditions among a large cohort of commercially insured U.S. individuals.

The researchers found that among 3,281,366 individuals (62.6 percent female; mean age, 37.7 years), the number of patients with inpatient care for eating disorders remained approximately 0.3 per 100,000 members per month until May 2020 when it more than doubled to 0.6. This increase was seen across multiple eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa). There was also an increase observed in the median length of inpatient stays from nine days and eight days in June to December 2018 and 2019, respectively, to 12 days in the same period in 2020. In addition, the investigators saw increases in the number of patients with outpatient care for eating disorders (25 patients per 100,000 per month to 29 patients per 100,000 per month). There were no such increases seen for the three comparison behavioral health conditions.

“Many aspects of the pandemic plausibly intensified eating disorders and their ascertainment,” the authors write.

Several authors reported owning stock in UnitedHealth Group, which is the parent company of their employer, Optum Labs.

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