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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

College of Psychiatrists of Ireland


Survey of 180 psychiatrists
  • The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland’s survey of 180 psychiatrists (members of the College) examining the impact of Covid-19 on mental health in the seven-month period from June 2020 to the end of December 2020.
  • 38% (53) reported increased referrals or relapses in eating disorders

Health Research Board – Hospital Admissions 2020

Key points compared to 2019:

  • 32% rise in adult admissions
  • 20-24 year olds most affected, but overall 18-44 year olds significantly represented
  • 13% of adult admissions were males 
  • 61% increase in admissions for children & adolescents (including repeat admissions).
  • Overall, eating disorders represented 18% of admissions for under 18s.

2020 Admissions – Psychiatric units and hospitals

Information published by the Health Research Board (HRB) in July 2021:


Gender and all and first admissions. Primary admission diagnosis and gender. Ireland 2020.

All First
Male Female Total Male Female Total
23 159 182 10 65 75

Age group

Under 18 18-19 20-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75 & over Unspecified Total
0 35 64 37 27 13 6 0 0 0 182

Discharges (including deaths) and in-patient days by diagnosis for all lengths of stay. Ireland 2020. Numbers with percentages

Discharges In-patient days
Numbers Percentages Numbers Percentages Average number of days Median number of days
182 1.16 7,696 0.90 42.3 28.5

Hospital type – all admissions. Primary admissions diagnosis

General hospital psychiatric units Psychiatric hospitals/continuing care units Independent/private and private charitable centres Total
~ .. 145 182

Children and adolescents

Gender and all and first admissions. Primary admissions diagnosis and gender. Ireland 2020.

All First
Male Female Total Male Female Total
.. ~ 87 .. ~ 59


Admissions – legal status and primary admission diagnosis
All First
Voluntary Involuntary Total Voluntary Involuntary Total
62 25 87 ~ .. 59

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.