Number of children treated in hospitals for anorexia doubles
The number of child cases of anorexia nervosa treated in hospitals has doubled in the past five years.
The latest hospital in-patient enquiry (HIPE) figures show there were 58 discharges of children up to the age of 15 in 2014, but that number rose to 119 in 2018.
In 2017, there was an even higher number of 125 discharges of children from hospital with a principal diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
The figures from the HSE emerge in the wake of a recent study which estimated around 95 children aged between eight and 17 are diagnosed with anorexia in Ireland each year, of whom 11 are aged between eight and 12.
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The HIPE figures reveal there were 461 hospital discharges of children up to the age of 15 treated for a principal diagnosis of anorexia nervosa between 2014 and 2018.
Professor Sarah Byford, author of a recent study published in the 'British Medical Journal' estimating the incidence of anorexia in Ireland, said the discharges account for the most severely ill cases who cannot be supported in the community.
"There will be many more being treated in the community," she said.
She also said newly released hospital in-patient figures are picking up all cases in that age group at any one time, not just new cases.
"My data [suggests] there's around 100 new cases of young people being diagnosed every year, but there will be many more than that in the population of cases," she said.
"These discharges may include some of the new cases, but may also include young people who have had anorexia for some time."
She said the increase could be due to a number of factors, including an increase in anorexia nervosa and better identification of cases.