Objective — Eating disorders are common and have a high public health burden. However, existing clinically relevant data sources are scarce, limiting the capacity to accurately measure the burden of eating disorders. This study tests the feasibility of generating a large clinically relevant cohort of individuals with eating disorders using health administrative data.
Methods — We developed 3 clinically relevant eating disorder prevalence cohorts using health administrative data from Ontario, Canada, between 1990 and 2014. Cohort 1 included patients with a hospitalization where an eating disorder diagnosis was the primary diagnosis, cohort 2 included patients with a hospitalization where an eating disorder diagnosis was any diagnosis, and cohort 3 included cohort 2 plus any patient with an emergency department visit with an eating disorder diagnosis.
Results — Cohort 1 had 7268 patients, cohort 2 had 13,197 patients, and cohort 3 had 17,373 patients. As cohort size increased, the proportion of eating disorder patients with diagnoses of bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified increased. Although the cohorts differed according to demographic and clinical characteristics, these differences were small compared to the degree to which they differed from the Ontario population.
Discussion — It is feasible to use health administrative data to measure the clinically relevant burden of eating disorders. The cohorts differed significantly in the eating disorder diagnostic composition. Eating disorders have a high burden, but poor data availability has resulted in fewer public health-related eating disorders studies in comparison to other mental disorders. The use of administrative data can address this evidence gap.