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Statistics on Eating Disorders

General

Eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating, are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout western countries. According to US estimates from The National Institute of Mental Health, between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of girls and women (i.e. 5-10 million people) and 1 million boys and men suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or other associated dietary conditions. Estimates suggest that as many as 15 percent of young women adopt unhealthy attitudes and behaviors about food.

In addition:

  • An estimated 10 per cent of female college students suffer from a clinical or sub-clinical (borderline) eating disorder, of which over half suffer from bulimia nervosa.
  • An estimated 1 in 100 American women binges and purges to lose weight.
  • Approximately 5 per cent of women and 1 percent of men have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.
  • 15 per cent of young women have significantly disordered eating attitudes and behavior.
  • It is estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 Canadian women aged 13 to 40 have anorexia nervosa and twice as many have bulimia.
  • Studies suggest that 5 to 10 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are males.
  • An estimated 1 in 3 of all dieters develop compulsive dieting attitudes and behaviors.
    Of these, one quarter will develop full or partial eating disorders.
  • In the UK, nearly 2 in every 100 secondary school girls suffer from anorexia nervosa,
    bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.
  • Due to the incidence of co-occurring medical conditions, it is almost impossible to specify the morbidity rates for eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. However, general estimates suggest that as many as 10-15 per cent of eating disorders are fatal for those affected.
  • Each day Americans spend an average of $109 million on dieting and diet related products.

Many eating disorders go unreported

Because of the guilt and consequent secretiveness of eating disorders (esp. bulimia and binge-eating) it is likely that many instances go unreported. Thus a higher incidence of eating disorders is almost certain.

Increased social pressure to be thin

According to studies into diet, weight loss and body shape, many individuals feel dissatisfied with their body shape, and develop sub-clinical / borderline eating disorder attitudes and behaviors. For example, 80 per cent of American women claim to be dissatisfied with their appearance and shape, and 1 in 2 American women are on a weight loss diet. The prevailing standards of body weight and shape, as revealed in the use of abnormally thin models in the media, continue to emphasize the idea that “thin is beautiful” and (one suspects) only make things worse for adolescents and adults with borderline anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders.

Attitudes to weight, shape and diet in pre-teens and teens

For example, 40 per cent of 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade girls want to be thinner. And 80 per cent of 10 year olds are worried in case they become fat. In another survey, 70 percent of 6th grade girls surveyed said that their concern about their weight, shape and diet started when they were aged 9-11.

In addition:

  • In a study of children aged 8-10, approximately 50 per cent of girls said they were unhappy with their size.
  • In a study of girls aged 9-15, more than 50 per cent claimed they exercised to lose weight, nearly 50 per cent claimed they reduced food intake in order to lose weight, and approximately 5 per cent claimed to use their parents’ diet pills or laxatives in order to lose weight.
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