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Statistics & Study Findings


The information on this page is drawn from a variety of sources. When citing, please attribute to the individuals or organizations listed in each section. To report an error or suggest additional material, contact us at

Burden and Prevalence of Eating Disorders
Statistics from Body Wars: Making Peace with Women's Bodies
Statistics from The Renfrew Center
Characteristics of Eating Disorders
The Role of Public Policy in Treatment and Recovery


Burden and Prevalence of Eating Disorders

Source: Academy for Eating Disorders


·         Eating disorders are among the top four leading causes of burden of disease in terms of life lost through disability or death.

·         Up to 10 percent of women with anorexia nervosa may die due to anorexia-related causes.

·         Risk of death among individuals with anorexia is 12 times greater than their same age peers without anorexia.

·         Health consequences such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), gastrointestinal complications and dental problems are significant health and financial burdens throughout life.

How Common Are Eating Disorders?

·         Between 0.3-1 percent of young women have anorexia nervosa, which makes anorexia as common as autism

·         Around 1-3 percent of young women have bulimia nervosa

·         Around 3 percent of the population has binge eating disorder

·         Many more suffer from some, but not all, of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Between 4 percent and 20 percent of young women practice unhealthy patterns of dieting, purging, and binge-eating.

·         Eating disorders are more common in women, but they do occur in men. Rates of binge eating disorder are similar in females and males.

·         Athletes in certain sports are particularly high risk for eating disorders. Female gymnasts, ice skaters, dancers, and swimmers, to name a few, have been found to have higher rates of eating disorders. In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, more than one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa.

·         Male athletes are also at increased risk— especially those in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding, crew, running, cycling, and football.

·         Although white females may be more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa, African-American girls may be especially vulnerable to developing eating disorders that involve binge eating. Body dissatisfaction in young girls has been shown in White, African-American, Hispanic and Asian girls.

Statistics from Body Wars: Making Peace with Women's Bodies

Source: Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies,
by Margo Maine, Ph.D., Gürze Books, 2000

·         42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner

·         45% of boys and girls in grades 3-6 want to be thinner

·         37% have already dieted

·         6.9% score in the ED range

·         51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about selves when dieting

·         9% of 9 year old have vomited to lose weight

·         81% of 10 year old are afraid of being fat

·         53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies

·         78% of 18 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies

·         The #1 wish of girls 11-17 years old is to lose weight


Statistics from The Renfrew Center

Sources: Susan Ice, M.D., Medical Director, The Renfrew Center, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

  • 90% + are adolescent and young women
  • Highest mortality rate of any mental illness -- up to 20%

Lifetime Prevalence

  • 0.5-3.7% of females suffer from anorexia nervosa
  • 1.1-4.2% of females suffer from bulimia nervosa
  • 2-5% of males and females suffer from binge eating disorder
  • 4.5% females, 0.4% males report bulimia in first year of college Source: APA Work Group on Eating Disorders, 2000


  • 0.5-1% of adolescents have anorexia nervosa
  • 2-3% of adolescents have bulimia nervosa


  • Increasing in younger age groups, as young as 7 years
  • Occurring increasingly in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups
  • 40-60% of high school girls diet
  • 13% of high school girls purge
  • 30-40% of junior high girls worry about weight
  • 40% of 9-year-old girls have dieted
  • 5-year-old girls are concerned about diet


The Role of Public Policy in Treatment and Recovery

Source: Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action

Congress, the president, insurance companies, the media, and private groups should work to create the appropriate legislation, regulation, industry standards, and public awareness to fight the epidemic of eating disorders.

  • Insurers should authorize funding for and access to comprehensive treatment.
  • Insurers should adopt guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association for medical necessity for eating disorders.
  • Insurers should end exclusion of eating disorders from mental health insurance policies.
  • Congress should pass national mental health parity legislation.
  • Congress should fund research on eating disorder risk factors, treatment studies, and prevention strategies.
  • The public and private sectors should fund education and prevention programs.
  • The public and private sectors should promote public awareness of signs, symptoms, treatment, and long-term consequences of eating disorders.
  • The public and private sectors should improve access to competent treatment providers.

The public and private sectors should develop programs for the training of professionals in treating eating disorders.

     © 2007 Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action. All Rights Reserved.