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COVID pandemic associated with anorexia in Canadian youth


Heightened anxiety

Commenting on the data, Margaret Thew, APNP, director of the eating disorders program at Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said that isolation due to school closures and negative social media messages created the “perfect storm” for eating disorders in adolescents and teenagers because of higher rates of anxiety and depression. Ms. Thew was not involved in the research.

The storm is not over yet, she said. “What everyone needs to keep in mind is that we still have this very heightened state of anxiety and depression ... for adolescents, teenagers, and preteens alike,” Ms. Thew said in an interview, “and we know that many of them are not coping with their anxiety very well.”

In her experience, since the start of the pandemic, the average age of pediatric patients with eating disorders declined from 16 to 15 years, and the youngest age declined from 12 to 11 years.

Overall, the CPSP results show that children are affected by mental health issues at an earlier age than before the pandemic, said Ms. Thew. “Years ago, we wouldn’t have thought that an 8-year-old needed to be screened for some of these risk factors, but now we’re definitely getting more younger children who are struggling, and I think it’s taking too long for them to get the care they need because it’s being overlooked,” she said.

The report was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Bethanys Hope Foundation, CHEO Research Institute, and Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. Dr. Katzman and Ms. Thew have no relevant disclosures.

A version of this article first appeared on


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