Effects of COVID-19 lockdown on eating disorders and obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Lucia Sideli, Gianluca Lo Coco, Rubinia Celeste Bonfanti, Bianca Borsarini, Lucia Fortunato, Cristina Sechi, Nadia Micali

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine: the pooled prevalence of symptomatic behaviours and mental health deterioration amongst individuals with eating disorders (EDs) and obesity during the COVID-19 confinement. Moreover, we examined changes in EDs and distress before and during the confinement, and the association between psychosocial factors and EDs symptoms. Method: A systematic search was carried out in biomedical databases from January 2020 to January 2021. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that used quantitative measures of ED symptoms and psychological distress during and after the COVID-19 confinement were included. Results: A total of 26 studies met inclusion criteria (n = 3399, 85.7% female). The pooled prevalence of symptomatic deterioration in EDs was 65% (95% CI[48,81], k = 10). The pooled prevalence of increased weight in obesity was 52% (95% CI[25,78], k = 4). More than half of the participants experienced depression and anxiety. Moreover, at least 75% of the individuals with EDs reported shape and eating concerns, and increased thinking about exercising. However, the pooled analyses of longitudinal studies showed no significant differences from pre-pandemic levels to the first lockdown phase in Body Mass Index and ED symptoms, whereas only few studies suggested increased distress, particularly among individuals with anorexia nervosa. Conclusions: The majority of individuals with EDs and obesity reported symptomatic worsening during the lockdown. However, further longitudinal studies are needed to identify vulnerable groups, as well as the long-term consequences of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-841
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Eating Disorders Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • distress
  • eating disorders
  • meta-analysis
  • obesity
  • systematic review


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