Teen eating disorders

Hospitalizations climb with broader diagnostic criteria

2024 Issue 1 Upfrong Eating Disorders

In the past decade, physicians have taken a broader view of adolescent eating disorders, thanks to greater recognition of eating patterns that can harm patients’ health, especially their heart function.

As a result, hospitalization rates for the disorders have climbed six- to seven-fold since 2010, according to a Stanford Medicine-led study of admissions at 12 U.S. hospitals published Dec. 21, 2023, in Hospital Pediatrics.

Much of the increase includes patients who might not have been diagnosed with disordered eating in the past. These individuals are not underweight when diagnosed but have undergone dangerously rapid weight loss.

More teens are also being diagnosed with a condition called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which was formally recognized in 2013 for patients who struggle to eat enough food for reasons that aren’t related to body image.

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder,” said the study’s senior author, Megen Vo, MD, medical director of the Eating Disorders Outpatient Clinic at Stanford Medicine. “We have an opportunity here to save lives.”

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Erin Digitale

Erin Digitale is the pediatrics senior science writer in the Office of Communications. Email her at digitale@stanford.edu.

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