Cases of anorexia on the rise since onset of pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on new cases of anorexia nervosa in children and youth, according to preliminary results from a Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) study. (pages 27 & 55)
The study, which monitored cases of first-time hospitalizations for anorexia from September 1 to December 31, 2021, found that the pandemic contributed to the development of this eating disorder in almost 50 per cent of children and adolescents implicated in the study. Most patients hospitalized with a first-time diagnosis were females between 14 and 17. The two-year study will continue to collect data across Canada until August 2023.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked a global eating disorder public health crisis resulting in considerable health, economic, financial, and social consequences,” said Dr. Debra Katzman, one of the study’s principal investigators, Staff Physician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and a Senior Associate Scientist in the Child Health Evaluative Sciences program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). “This is a wake-up call for making eating disorders a priority.”
The data on anorexia nervosa hospitalizations were only one of the study results released this week. Other findings of significance:
• Congenital syphilis, which occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passing it on to the baby, has become increasingly common in recent years. Babies born with this condition can have deformed bones, severe anemia, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, brain and never problems, skin rashes or meningitis. Housing insecurity and substance use among mothers are common risks factors. Many of the mothers (29 per cent) studied had no prenatal care but most of their newborns (87 per cent) with congenital syphilis started treatment within the first week of life.
• Serious and life-threatening events associated with the non-medical use of cannabis continued to occur among children and youth in Canada in 2021. The most common presentation was cannabis poisoning or intoxication (36 per cent), mostly involving children 12 years and younger who had ingested cannabis edibles (83 per cent). This trend will be closely monitored as the study continues. The vast majority of cases of serious or life-threatening events involved cannabis from unknown sources.
The CPSP is a network of 2,800 Canadian paediatricians and paediatric subspecialists. It is a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society, which is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth.