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COVID-19 pandemic increases youth hospitalizations for eating disorders: USask study

Click to play video: 'How COVID-19 has contributed to surge in eating disorders in youth' How COVID-19 has contributed to surge in eating disorders in youth
WATCH: How COVID-19 has contributed to surge in eating disorders in youth – Jun 20, 2021

A new USask study of eating disorders in children and teens in Saskatoon and across Canada shows a 30 per cent increase in hospital admissions in Saskatoon since the beginning of the pandemic.

The studies also show referrals for outpatient visits rose between 50 to 60 per cent.

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Eating disorders are the third most common chronic condition in adolescents. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

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USask associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan Dr. Ayisha Kurji said early diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes, but eating disorders are often underdiagnosed and undertreated.

“The rates of kids needing the hospital was triple what it used to be,” said Kurji. “It’s a lot more treatable if detected early on. It requires a team to help treat it in most cases.”

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Kurji said a family doctor or dietician are professionals that can be initially consulted.

She adds there are signs people should be aware of that indicate the possibility of an eating disorder.

“Changes in eating behaviour and exercise behaviour,” Kurji said. “Really being obsessed with calories within given foods. Potentially playing with their food, or eating alone can all be red flags. Wanting to work out a lot more obsessively could also be a red flag.”

Read more: USask researchers’ projects aim to tackle COVID-19 pandemic issues

There is a helpline for people to connect with through this website.

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