Impact on Irish Health Services

Hospital admissions and clinical services

HSE Briefing Statement – Children

Health Service Executive 2021a

  • A HSE briefing statement from 05/01/2021 highlighted the impact of the pandemic on children, including increased presentations of anxiety and anorexia nervosa.

Ireland: Child and adolescent services

Sources: Barrett & Richardson 2021; Busher & Richardson 2020; Kelleher 2021; Doyle 2021; Connolly 2021; Delaney 2021; Fogarty 2021; Holliman 2021

Location/Service Impact
  • Increased hospitalisations for eating disorders, up by 66% compared to 2019. During the period March-September 2020, 40% of admissions were males, notably higher than any previous year. Children who required hospitalisation were more unwell and more medically compromised.
  • Paediatric hospitals and acute hospitals have also reported increased acute presentations.
Child & Adolescent Regional Eating Disorder Service (CAREDS), Cork/Kerry
  • Two to three times instances of young people needing help since the pandemic began. As with other examples, hospitalisation was required because people were more unwell.
Crumlin, Temple Street, Tallaght, CAMHS
  • In Crumlin’s Children Hospital, both community and hospital presentations for eating disorders increased during 2020, by three to four times, compared to 2019. More acute presentations also featured, along with increases, across Temple Street Hospital, Tallaght University Hospital and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services
  • A 40% increase in eating disorder referrals amongst children and adolescents since March 2020.
Galway region
  • HSE West reported increased hospital admissions for eating disorders in the Galway region, rising from two to nine cases, after February 2020.
Adult services

Source: Bermingham 2021

  • Relapses and new presentations
  • Adult referrals have increased significantly in 2020, notably in the 18-to-24 age group.
  • Higher instances of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa
  • Increased referrals for males reported
National Clinical Programme for Eating Disorders (NCP-ED)

Health Service Executive 2021b

NCP-ED 2020 Outcomes
  • A 60% rise in referrals
  • A 43% increase in assessments completed
  • Twice as many people started treatment

Barrett, E. & Richardson, S. (2021) Invited Editorial: Eating Disorders During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ireland, Irish Medical Journal, 114(1), 233.

Bermingham, D. (2021) Big surge in eating disorder referrals during Covid-19 lockdown. Irish Examiner. Retrieved from

Busher & Richardson, S. (2020) The Impact of Covid-19 on presentations of anorexia nervosa. The Temple Street Experience. Oral Presentation, Irish Paediatric Association Annual Conference.

Connolly, E. (2021) Major surge in teen eating disorders during pandemic. Southern Star, p.6.

Delaney, M. (2021) People with eating disorders presenting more unwell since pandemic. Retrieved from

Doyle, L. (2021) Eating disorders up by forty per cent. Donegal News, p.10.

Fogarty, J. (2021) Lockdown exacerbating eating disorders, health forum told. Roscommon Herald, p.22.

Health Service Executive (2021a) Briefing Statement. The Current Situation of Children 5th January 2021: Health, Education, and Covid-19. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

Health Service Executive (2021b) National Clinical Programme for Eating Disorders. Our Growth in 2020. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

Holliman, S. (2021) Admissions for eating disorders quadruple in Galway during pandemic. Tuam Herald, p.4.

Kelleher, L. (2021) Children with eating disorders more than triple during lockdown. Irish Mail on Sunday, p.4.