Increased emergency department use by adolescents and young adults with eating disorders

Int J Eat Disord. 2013 May;46(4):308-15. doi: 10.1002/eat.22070. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


Objective: This study describes patterns of emergency department (ED) utilization by patients who screen positive for eating disorders.

Method: ED patients aged 14-20 years (n = 1,920) completed a computerized questionnaire. The analyses compared the rates of ED use between patients who screened positive for an eating disorder and those who did not and examined the reasons for ED use amongst patients with eating disorders.

Results: ED patients who screened positive for eating disorders were significantly more likely to have previously visited the ED and, on average, utilized the ED at a rate 1.6 times higher than patients who screen negative for eating disorders. The most common chief complaints among patients who screen positive for eating disorders were abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal-related problems.

Discussion: Patients with eating disorders utilize the ED more frequently than those without and commonly present for complaints seemingly unrelated to their eating disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult