Psychiatric hospital admissions fall amid coronavirus restrictions

Number of homeless and of young women with eating disorders admitted increases

The Central Mental Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Central Mental Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Admissions to psychiatric hospitals fell last year, amid implementation of Covid restrictions, though the number of homeless people and of young women with severe eating disorders admitted increased, new figures show.

The data, from the Health Research Board (HRB), also reveals increases in involuntary admissions with the highest rates of people being admitted against their will among people living in north-central Dublin and north Dublin.

Similar to other years, those most likely to need inpatient psychiatric care were single, unemployed and suffering with depression.

Dr Sarah Craig, head of national health information systems at the HRB, said the figures indicated “increasing and/or decreasing demand for treatment among different groups” during the pandemic but should be seen in a context where there was reduced capacity in hospitals due to social-distancing requirements.

In all last year there were 15,391 admissions to psychiatric units – an 8 per cent decrease on the 16,710 admissions in 2019. There was, however, an 8 per cent increase in first-time admissions, from 5,277 in 2019 to 5,694 last year.

There was an equal proportion of male and female admissions, at 324.7 per 100,000 for males and 321.7 for females.

Males, however, accounted for 53 per cent of first admissions.

Average age

While the average age on admission to a psychiatric hospital was 45, the 20-24 year age group had the highest rate of all admissions, at 545.2 per 100,000, followed by the 18-19 year age group, at 450.9 and the 25-34 year age group, at 444.9. Those aged 75 years and older had the lowest rate of admission, at 367.0 per 100,000.

Depressive disorders again had the highest rate of all admissions, followed by schizophrenia, mania and neuroses. Combined, these disorders accounted for more than two-thirds of all admissions.

Sixty per cent of those admitted were single, almost 24 per cent were married, 4 per cent were widowed and 3 per cent were divorced.

By occupation, the largest proportion (38 per cent) were unemployed, while 22 per cent were employed, with the remaining retired (12 per cent), students (5 per cent), engaged in house duties (4 per cent) and for 19 per cent this information was unknown.

There were 312 admissions of people who were homeless, up from 297 in 2019.

Both the proportion and number of involuntary admissions increased last year – from 14 per cent (2,339) of admissions in 2019 to 16 per cent (2,462) in 2020 and the highest rates were in the north-central Dublin and north Dublin areas at 68.4 per 100,000 people. Some 19 per cent of all admissions from these areas were involuntary.

A total 486 children were admitted for psychiatric treatment – down from 497 in 2019. Of these, 72 per cent were girls or young women, and a third of the young people were aged 17; 24 per cent were 16 years; 20 per cent were 15 years, 15 per cent were aged 14 and eight per cent (39) were aged 13 or under.

Thirty-one per cent of all child admissions were due to depression – unchanged from 32 per cent in 2019. However, the rate of eating disorders admissions increased markedly – from 11 per cent in 2019 to 18 per cent last year. Across all age groups females accounted for 95 per cent of eating disorders admissions – down slightly from 96 per cent in 2019.

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