Three-fold rise in psychiatric admissions of young people with eating disorders, report finds

Young women account for 96 per cent of admissions with this diagnosis, according to HRB

The number of young people admitted to psychiatric units for eating disorder has increased by over 250 per cent in three years, according to the Health Research Board (HRB).

There were 116 admissions related to eating disorders among young people in 2021, compared to 33 in 2018, the latest HRB figures show.

Women accounted for 96 per cent of child and adolescent admissions for this diagnosis last year, and 72 per cent of all admissions to child and adolescent units.

Overall, there was an increase in the number of admissions to psychiatric inpatient facilities in 2021, following a dip during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Depression continues to be the most common diagnosis across all cases admitted, followed by schizophrenia, neuroses and mania.

Adult admissions were more likely to be single, unemployed and diagnosed with a depressive disorder, according to the HRB report.

The most common diagnosis for admissions under 18 was a depressive disorder, followed by eating disorders (up from 18 per cent in 2020 to 23 per cent in 2021), neuroses, and schizophrenia.

“We are seeing a gradual return to pre-pandemic numbers being admitted for inpatient care, following a slight dip in admission figures over the period of COVID-related restrictions,” said Antoinette Daly, research officer at the HRB. “The 20-24-year-old age group had the highest rate of all admissions at 597.5 per 100,000; an increase of nearly 10 per cent since 2020.”

“Admissions of young people would typically be female, aged 17, with a diagnosis of a depressive or eating disorder. Almost one in four admissions for young females were aged 14 years or younger compared with one in 10 admissions for males of this age.”

Overall there were 15,723 admissions to psychiatric units and hospitals in 2021, an increase of 332 on the previous year. There was an equal proportion of male and female admissions.

A total of 284 admissions reported having no fixed abode, a decrease from 312 in 2020. There were 103 deaths in psychiatric units and hospitals.

There were 509 admissions for under 18s, up from 486. This included 29 admissions for under 18s to adult units.

Males accounted for 92 per cent of child and adolescent admissions for drug disorders.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.