Skip Navigation Archive: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archival print banner

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders Declined, but Big Increase Seen in Pica Disorder

AHRQ News and Numbers, September 8, 2011

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

Eating disorders as the primary reason for entering the hospital declined by 23 percent from 2007 to 2008 and 2008 to 2009, after a steep and steady increase from 1999 to 2007, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The severity of eating disorders also lessened, with symptoms like irregular heartbeat and menstrual disorders declining by 39 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

However, from 1999 to 2009, hospitalizations jumped 93 percent for patients with an eating disorder called pica, which causes them to eat largely nonedible substances such as clay, dirt, chalk, and feces. Women and children, including those with autism and other mental or developmental disorders, are most likely to suffer from pica.

According to data from the Federal agency, between 1999 and 2009:

  • The number of hospital stays for patients with pica increased from 964 to 1,862 during the decade, and there was an overall increase of nearly 25 percent in cases of eating disorders.
  • Patients who were found to have eating disorders generally were hospitalized for other conditions such as depression, fluid and electrolyte disorders, schizophrenia, or alcohol-related disorders.
  • Hospitalizations increased 13 percent for anorexia and decreased 14 percent for bulimia.
  • Although 9 in 10 cases of eating disorders were among women, eating disorders in men increased by 53 percent.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from Statistical Brief #120: An Update on Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders, 1999 to 2009. The report uses data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. For information about this AHRQ database, go to

For additional information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Linwood Norman at or call (301) 427-1248.

Page last reviewed September 2011
Internet Citation: Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders Declined, but Big Increase Seen in Pica Disorder: AHRQ News and Numbers, September 8, 2011. September 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care