Eating disorders are up among teens during COVID. How adults can spot red flags and help

An adolescent eats fries and a hamburger while using their computer. Photo by Shutterstock.

Eating disorders jumped in the last year as more young people spent time on screens, according to new research from UC San Francisco. Hospitalizations at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital doubled since March 2020 — for eating disorders such as binging, bulimia, and compulsive exercise.

Jason Nagata, professor of pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, says some teenagers have gained weight during the pandemic due to overeating or a more sedentary lifestyle. And it’s led to heightened body image concerns.  

He says lots of teens have attributed to being on-camera during virtual learning as a trigger for their concerns. 

Others, including student athletes, have restricted their eating or compulsively exercised. Nagata says that’s an example of individuals trying to regain a semblance of control in their lives.