The economic and social impact of eating disorders in youth across Canada: how much did the COVID‑19 pandemic cost youth, families, and the system?
The restrictions that came with the COVID‑19 crisis resulted in a striking increase in rates of eating disorders among Canadian children and youth, affecting families and caregivers alike. Unfortunately, the eating disorder system of care was unprepared for this large increase in cases and needs, leaving many unable to access help when they most needed it. The system was mostly unprepared as it did not have a good sense of how many youth needed help both before the pandemic, and then during, so that we could assign and use our scarce resources appropriately. To better prepare the eating disorder system going forward and to understand how the pandemic shifted things, this study will use different approaches to better understand the prevalence, social and economic costs related to the impact of COVID‑19 on eating disorders in children, youth and families in Canada. Comparing national and province-specific rates pre-pandemic (2019) and during (2020) will allow for a deep understanding of how the restrictions affected those with eating disorders from across Canada. Following the same process used in costing analyses done in Australia and the US, this project plans to ask the same health economy firm (Deloitte) to assist with a similar costing analysis in Canada. To complement this work, a scoping review of prevalence studies of eating disorders in Canada will also be done along with interviews with a variety of individuals from each province to help understand how the pandemic may have affected individuals differently based on region and imposed public health measures. Findings from this study will help policy-makers and healthcare leaders better understand how the pandemic affected individuals and their families with eating disorders across Canada, and provide important estimates to improve the eating disorder system of care for post-COVID recovery efforts.