Covid-19, the effects of the pandemic on the National Health Service for people with eating disorders

Covid-19, the effects of the pandemic on the National Health Service for people with eating disorders

Covid has had an impact on eating disorders, which have increased, and consequently also on the national health system. A topic that has been the subject of research. The team of the Metabolic Neuroscience laboratory of the Italian Auxological Institute, coordinated by Dr. Leonardo Mendolicchio, analyzed the national and international scientific literature, from Covid -19 to today, examining the implications of the pandemic on the national system and on services for treatment of eating disorders. The title is “Short and long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the healthcare system for people with eating disorders”.

Hospital admissions in the period 2019-2021

Between 2019 and 2021, a notable increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders was recorded in Italy, equal to 59.71%, both in the 15-19 and 10-14 age groups. Data in line with international trends, as also found in Canada and the United States. The increase in DAN cases is also associated with a 97% increase in psychiatric comorbidities, mainly depressive and anxiety disorders.

The use of insurance policies

Disruptions in the provision of specialized eating disorder services may partly explain the increase in emergency department visits observed during and in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lack of specialized public services has forced many patients to resort to private insurance policies to access adequate care, turning to private centers.
The average time from the onset of eating disorder symptoms to the activation of a specialist treatment program was found to be approximately 2 years, with the involvement of General Practitioners (GPs) significantly lower in Italy than in other European countries.


Despite the difficulties encountered by services and patients in accessing specialist care for DAN, the pandemic has favored the emergence of transition plans in various institutions, which have often translated into telemedicine, which has proven to be a usable and acceptable strategy for both patients than for caregivers. Telemedicine could emerge as a possible transition plan between discharge from intensive units and admission to outpatient or community care centers, considering the long waiting lists for such services.

According to Mendolicchio, “this research can be very important because it can help regional presidents, ministers and politicians to understand what is needed to optimize investments and resources to be used for the treatment of eating disorders”.

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