- The prevalence of eating disorders increased during the global pandemic.
- COVID-19 has created broader social risk factors that harm mental health.
- For some, increased food insecurity contributed to the problem.
- An increased reliance on social and news media fuels mental health disorders and eating disorders.
Over the past decade, the prevalence of eating disorders – especially among adolescents and young adults – has been a growing problem. A review of studies found that eating disorders among young people across the globe more than doubled from 2000 to 2018. Since then, COVID-19 has created new challenges for people with eating disorders and those who treat them.
Although there isn’t a broad study yet that quantifies the impact of the pandemic, there are plenty of clues that COVID-19 has increased the prevalence of eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association helpline reports a 40 percent increase in calls since March 2020.
And a study of 1,000 participants diagnosed with eating disorders in the U.S. and the Netherlands found those already diagnosed with anorexia were more likely to eat fewer meals per day, fast and consume low-calorie meals since the pandemic started. Those with bulimia and binge‐eating disorder had more frequent binging episodes and urges to binge. Study participants also reported higher levels of anxiety and worries about the pandemic restrictions affecting their mental health.