There are concerns that eating disorders have become commoner during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Using the electronic health records of 5.2 million people aged under 30, mostly in the USA, we show that the diagnostic incidence was 15.3% higher in 2020 overall compared with previous years (relative risk 1.15, 95% CI 1.12−1.19). The relative risk increased steadily from March 2020 onwards, exceeding 1.5 by the end of the year. The increase occurred solely in females, and primarily related to teenagers and anorexia nervosa. A higher proportion of patients with eating disorders in 2020 had suicidal ideation (hazard ratio HR = 1.30, 1.16−1.47) or attempted suicide (HR = 1.69, 1.21−2.35).