The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (H-CUP) recently published national estimates of hospitalizations for eating disorders from 1999-2000 and 2005-2006. The data reflected an 18 percent increase in eating disorder-related hospital stays between 1999 and 2006, and a 61 percent increase in the cost per the average 8-day hospitalization.
The majority of patients were female, although there was a 37 percent increase in male hospitalizations, and there were more hospital stays for all age groups except for people between the ages of 30 and 45. The largest increases were for children under 12 and women over the age of 45.
National estimates of eating disorder-related hospital stays were higher for anorexia nervosa (17 percent), the diagnoses of pica (eating non food substances) and unspecified eating disorders both increased 41 percent, but the diagnosis for bulimia decreased 7 percent.
The report also presented the serious secondary diagnosis for eating disorder inpatients which included cardiac dysrhythmias, fluid and electrolyte disorders, nutritional deficiencies or other nutritional, endocrine, menstrual and metabolic disorders, as well as anemia, convulsions, and acute liver or kidney failure.
The increase in eating disorder-related hospitalizations for children and teens suggests to me that we are not catching eating disorders early enough, and primary care providers may need to do more screening for eating disorders when they see their young patients.