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Eating disorders are sending more Americans to the hospital

Research Activities, May 2009, No. 345

The number of men and women hospitalized due to eating disorders that caused anemia, kidney failure, erratic heart rhythms, or other problems rose 18 percent between 1999 and 2006, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). AHRQ's analysis also found that between 1999 and 2006:

  • Hospitalizations for eating disorders rose most sharply for children under 12 years of age—119 percent. The second steepest rise was for patients ages 45 to 64—48 percent.
  • Hospitalizations for men also increased by 37 percent, but women continued to dominate hospitalizations for eating disorders (89 percent in 2006).
  • Admissions for anorexia, the most common eating disorder, remained relatively stable. People with anorexia typically lose extreme amounts of weight by not eating enough food, over-exercising, self-inducing vomiting, or using laxatives.
  • In contrast, hospitalizations for bulimia declined 7 percent. Bulimia is binge eating followed by purging by vomiting or use of laxatives and can lead to severe dehydration or stomach and intestinal problems.
  • Hospitalizations for less common eating disorders increased 38 percent. Those disorders include pica, an obsession with eating nonedible substances such as clay or plaster, and psychogenic vomiting, which is vomiting caused by anxiety and stress.

For more information, see Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders from 1999 to 2006, HCUP Statistical Brief #70 ( The report uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

Current as of May 2009
Internet Citation: Eating disorders are sending more Americans to the hospital: Research Activities, May 2009, No. 345. May 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.