Global Site Navigation (use tab and down arrow)


Health service use and costs among people with eating disorders in New Brunswick

Category(s): Health
Status: Active
Principal: Emilie Lacroix
Project Number: P0105
Year Approved: 2023

Project Description

Eating disorders are deadly: because of their wide-ranging physical health impacts and association with suicidality, eating disorders carry the highest mortality rates of any mental disorders. About 8% of women and 2% of men experience eating disorders, and their incidence rates have risen alarmingly since the COVID-19 pandemic. More Canadians are seeking treatment for eating disorders now than ever before.

Accessing evidence-based treatment for eating disorders is a challenge for many people, and those who do manage to get treatment often experience long delays and other obstacles. This problem is particularly acute in under-resourced areas like New Brunswick, which lacks publicly funded eating disorder treatment programs. Without a clear path to care, individuals in this province may develop chronic eating disorders that lead to severe health problems and extended hospital stays.

Indeed, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), eating disorders were the most costly type of hospital admission for adults in New Brunswick in 2019, with an average cost of $56,524 per admission. This cost is higher than other procedures like bone marrow transplants, craniotomies, and open-heart surgeries. For children, eating disorders were the fourth most expensive type of hospital admission in the province, with an average cost of $17,524 per pediatric admission in 2019. Adults with eating disorders stayed an average of 88 days in the hospital, while children stayed an average of 21 days.

The hospital admission costs data in New Brunswick only show the most severe cases of people with eating disorders. Unfortunately, little information is available on the broader patterns of health service use for individuals with eating disorders in the province, making it difficult to assess their needs and develop effective and accessible local treatment options.

One way to bridge the gap in knowledge about eating disorders is to use administrative health data that is routinely collected in healthcare settings across the province. By analyzing this data, we can gain insight into how people use healthcare services for eating disorders and how much it costs. Ultimately, this understanding can inform recommendations for the development of services, giving policymakers and healthcare leaders a basis to build a provincial eating disorder treatment strategy that meets the needs of our population.

This observational study will mobilize administrative data housed by NBIRDT to describe patterns of health service use and associated costs among New Brunswickers with eating disorders between 2003 and 2021. Our study will aim to answer three main research questions:

  1. What are the rates of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, acute care utilization, and out-of-province care among people with eating disorders in New Brunswick? 
  2. What are the demographic and clinical characteristics of New Brunswickers who access care for eating disorders? 
  3. What financial costs are associated with eating disorders care for New Brunswickers, both in province, and out of province?

By improving our understanding of eating disorders service use in New Brunswick, we hope that this study will inform efforts to build capacity for evidence-based treatment in this province!