Eating disorders in children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic -a systematic literature review

Gabrielė Adomavičiūtė1, Enrika Davydovaitė1, Darius Leskauskas2

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Academy of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

2Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Department of Psychiatry, Kaunas, Lithuania


Background. Eating disorders are a group of diseases that manifest in abnormal eating habits and affect both physical and mental health. Although much attention is currently being paid to the biological mechanisms of the development of eating disorders, sociocultural factors remain the most frequently mentioned. During the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the significant increase in patients with eating disorders, there was a need to investigate whether there is a statistically significant causal relationship.

Aim: to analyze and systematize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on eating disorders in children and adolescents described in the scientific literature.

Research material and methods. The search for scientific studies was carried out in three online scientific databases. Only scientific articles published since 01/30/2020 were included for systematic analysis, also articles written in English language. Studies in which the correspondents were from selected age group and the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and eating disorders.

Results. 806 publications were found during the search. 14 articles were included. The four most frequently mentioned changes in eating disorders due to the COVID-19 pandemic were: 1) increased number of newly diagnosed eating disorder cases, 2) increased number of hospitalized cases, 3) increased number of bed days, 4) exacerbation of the disease. Seven groups of factors had an impact on the clinical expression of eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic: aggravated co-morbidities, decreased satisfaction with body, change in the daily
routine, longer time spent on social networks, changed eating habits, barriers to health services and parental anxiety. The results confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic not only disrupted the overall mental health of children and adolescents, but also had a negative impact on eating disorders.

Conclusion. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the rise in the number of eating disorders. It was noticed that the most significant factors were concomitant diseases and decreased satisfaction about body shapes.

Keywords: eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder.

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