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Eating disorder hospital admissions rise 8%

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

31st January 2014 – Hospitals in England saw an 8% increase last year in the number of people being admitted because of eating disorders, official figures show. A total of 2,560 patients were treated in the 12 months to October 2013.

The statistics have been compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).


A leading eating disorders charity tells us that the figures are " worrying" and probably underestimate the scale of the problem.

The figures also reveal the extent that eating disorders impact on the NHS, with patients more likely to stay in hospital for longer than those admitted for any other reason. One in 17 patients with an eating disorder stayed in hospital for longer than 6 months, the figures show, compared with 3 in 10,000 of all other admission cases.


Girls and women were much more likely to be admitted to hospital than boys and men. There were 9 times as many females as males, similar to the previous year.

The most common age for admission among females was 15, accounting for 300 out of 2,320 females admitted to hospital during the year.

Three out of 4 admissions were for anorexia and 1 out of 20 were for bulimia. Other eating disorders accounted for almost 1 in 5 admissions.

Regional variations

Hospital admissions for eating disorders were highest in the North East and South West of England and lowest in the West Midlands.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

The most common eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa, when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • Bulimia, when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives.

Figures from the charity beat estimates that 10% of people with an eating disorder are anorexic and 40% are bulimic, while the rest belong to a category which includes those with a binge eating disorder.

Hospital pressures

The chair of HSCIC, Kingsley Manning says in a statement: "Today’s report shows a national increase in the demand placed on hospitals by patients with an eating disorder.

"Hospitals not only dealt with more patients with an eating disorder than last year but compared to other admission types patients with these disorders tend to stay longer in hospital, which will be of significant interest to staff caring for these patients and those planning services."

Leanne Thorndyke, head of communications at the eating disorders charity, Beat, tells BootsWebMD: "We find [this] increase worrying and also just the tip of the iceberg.

"The figures only show inpatient admissions – we know that the majority of individuals are treated as outpatients within their community as well as in private treatment centres – or worst still, not treated at all."

Reviewed on January 31, 2014

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