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Eating Disorders Sending More Americans to the Hospital

AHRQ News and Numbers, April 1, 2009

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

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 the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The Federal Agency'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 sharply—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—binge eating followed by purging by vomiting or use of laxatives—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 non-edible substances such as clay or plaster, and psychogenic vomiting, which is vomiting caused by anxiety and stress.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders from 1999 to 2006. 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.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of April 2009
Internet Citation: Eating Disorders Sending More Americans to the Hospital: AHRQ News and Numbers, April 1, 2009. April 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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