Adult hospital admissions for eating disorders at highest level in a decade

New figures show 210 hospital admissions for conditions in 2022, with vast majority being women

The number of adults admitted to hospital for eating disorders is the highest in a decade, according to the most recent annual figures, with the number of first-time hospital admissions being the highest on record.

However, an organisation supporting those with eating disorders have said people admitted to hospital are only a “fraction” of the individuals experiencing one of these conditions in Ireland.

According to information from the Health Research Board (HRB), and hosted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there were 210 hospital admissions for eating disorders last year. Of those, the vast majority were women (191).

Meanwhile, the number of first time hospital admissions for eating disorders has hit its highest levels since records began in 2006.


There were 96 first-time admissions last year, 10 higher than the 86 in 2021, with the number being even lower in 2020 at 75.

The number of children and adolescents inpatient admissions for eating disorders was 80 in 2022, down from 116 in 2021, a spike that was attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Girls were far more likely to be admitted for eating disorder treatment than boys, with all but two of last year’s admissions being girls.

Three quarters of admissions of children and adolescents last year were first time admissions, second only to the 93 first-time admissions recorded in 2021.

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Harriet Parsons, training and development manager at Bodywhys, the eating disorders association of Ireland, said inpatient care “isn’t ideal for a person with an eating disorder”.

“Only a small minority of people with an eating disorder become so ill that they require inpatient hospital care. When they go inpatient, they don’t come out better,” she said.

“They come out well enough to start recovering so you want to try and keep people out of hospital. It’s quite unfortunate when somebody ends up in hospital because physically they deteriorate.”

In January 2018, the HSE published a five-year plan for community eating disorder care, dealing with the three most commonly recognised eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge-eating disorder.

The aim was to have 16 specialist teams in place: eight for adults and eight for under-18s. As of October 2023, a spokesman for the HSE said there are currently five teams for children and five for adults, though “not all teams are funded to the recommended levels in the model of care”.

HSE data shows that 1,370 patients were assessed by the eating disorder teams between 2018 and 2022, of which 52 per cent were assessed within four weeks and 76 per cent in eight weeks.

In 2022, €2.25 million was allocated to the national clinical programme for eating disorders and funded 25.6 whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff. There was no new funding allocated in 2023 for eating disorders teams.

Of the 2022 funding, 13.4 WTEs have been recruited and are in place, the HSE spokesman said, with the remaining 12.2 WTEs in active recruitment process and are progressing. Many of these posts have start dates, the spokesman added.

Ms Parsons said while the improvement is welcome, it is now five years since the model of care was published.

“We’re at the point now where it should have been completed but it isn’t. It has to be reviewed now also because of Covid, demand has gone up, so the need is greater,” she added.

The Bodywhys website offers information on eating disorders, a helpline 01 210 7906 and email support

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times