Opinion: The pandemic has deeply affected many people with eating disorders

Many Americans are becoming accustomed to discussing how pandemic-related lockdowns and remote engagement have changed our lives. The conversations tend to be mechanical and superficial, like discussing the weather, and often include references to changes in eating or jokes about “the pandemic 15” to reflect weight gain from sitting too much or too close to the homemade bread.

But for one segment of the population, pandemic-related changes in eating habits are no joke. As we and several colleagues reported in JAMA Network Open, data from a large national health insurer showed substantial increases in hospitalizations among people with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder, starting in the second half of 2020. Hospitalization rates for these conditions roughly doubled compared to the rates in the prior two years. And individuals admitted to the hospital tended to stay about 50% longer, suggesting the disorders were more severe.

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