National study on the social and economic costs of eating disorders in children and youth during COVID-19 a “vast underestimate”


Ottawa, Ontario — Tuesday April 30, 2024

Experts calling for national surveillance strategy on eating disorders in Canada

A new pan-Canadian analysis on the cost of eating disorders in children and youth before and during the COVID-19 pandemic shows a sharp increase, with a price tag that is estimated to be only the tip of the iceberg, raising calls for better surveillance of the growing issue across Canada.

Led by the CHEO Research Institute in collaboration with healthcare and academic partners across Canada, the Deloitte Access Economics report is the first of its kind in Canada and shines a light on the significant costs of eating disorders to the Canadian healthcare system during the pandemic. Between 2020 and 2022, there was a 126% increase in emergency department presentations and a 60% increase in inpatient hospitalizations compared to one-year pre-COVID.

The report indicates the incremental cost impact of children and youth with eating disorders reached $39.5 million over the course of the pandemic (from 2020 to 2022), representing a 21% increase based on the limited data available. The report’s experts say these figures are only a fraction of the true cost of eating disorders in Canada.

Due to a lack of surveillance data on eating disorders, not all components of the cost of care, including the cost of standard eating disorder treatment programs such as day hospital programs, and support-based community eating disorder services (which rose by 118% during the first two years of the pandemic), were accounted for in the report.

“We can’t manage what we can’t measure. Understanding the impacts and costs associated with eating disorders, especially in children and youth, is imperative to drive much-needed health system As thorough as this Deloitte report is, it is a vast underestimate of the cost of eating disorders in Canada. This research highlights the urgent need to develop a robust surveillance system for eating disorders in Canada to ensure we are adequately capturing shifting needs in services and costs so that we can better manage eating disorder care,” said Dr. Nicole Obeid, Scientist and Lead of the Eating Disorders Research Lab at the CHEO Research Institute, and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa.

On May 2, 2024, the study group is hosting a pan-Canadian meeting in Ottawa with international experts in eating disorder system transformation, Canadian research and healthcare leaders, individuals with lived experience, and policy makers to review in detail the report findings and identify an action plan. There is an opportunity for eating disorder experts and decision-makers to work together on a national surveillance strategy to propel much-needed, data-informed, system transformation efforts to improve eating disorder care for youth, families and clinicians.

The impact of COVID-19 on eating disorders among Canadian youth project was a pan-Canadian collaboration of more than 40 partners from across the country, led by the following working group:

  • Nicole Obeid, Eating Disorders Research Lab, CHEO Research Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa.
  • Linda Booij, Eating Disorders Continuum, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
  • Jennifer Coelho, Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia
  • Georgina (Gina) Dimitropoulos, associate professor, Faculty of Social Work, and Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary & Research lead, Calgary Eating Disorder Program, Alberta Health Services
  • Debra Katzman, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), University of Toronto, Research Institute
  • Silva-Roy, Eating Disorders Research Lab, CHEO Research Institute

Funding for this report, and corresponding studies was provided in majority part by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grant: Understanding and mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, youth and families in Canada.


Obeid, N., Coelho, J.S., Booij, L. et al. Estimating additional health and social costs in eating disorder care for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic: implications for surveillance and system transformation. J Eat Disord 12, 52 (2024).

Obeid, N., Silva-Roy, P., Booij, L. et al. The financial and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth with eating disorders, their families, clinicians and the mental health system: a mixed methods cost analysis. J Eat Disord 12, 43 (2024).

About the CHEO Research Institute

The CHEO Research Institute is a global centre of excellence in pediatric research that connects talent and technology in pursuit of life-changing research for every child, youth and family in the CHEO community and beyond. The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of CHEO and is affiliated with the University of Ottawa. At the CHEO Research Institute, discoveries inspire the best life for every child and youth. For more information, visit

Media contact:

Jennifer Ruff
Director of Communications
CHEO Research Institute
(613) 261-3979
[email protected]

For a French version of the release visit the CHEO newsroom.

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