Eating Disorder Statistics and Trends

Eating disorder statistics and research consistently show how serious eating disorders can be. Anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa all have long-lasting effects on a person’s body and overall well-being. They aren’t limited to affecting only one gender, age group, ethnicity, or income level. Eating disorders can affect anyone. In fact, at some point in their life, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder in the United States.

Keep in mind eating disorder statistics do not include the number of cases that go unreported by people across the country who struggle with the same body issues and experience the same disease.

Additional facts about eating disorders may be startling to some, but for the millions it affects every year, it’s a day-to-day struggle that’s all too familiar. Approximately 2 to 5 percent of Americans will suffer from a binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period. Of the people who experience anorexia, 20 percent will die prematurely from related complications such as malnutrition, heart problems, or suicide.

Among those who suffer from mental illness, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate. Additionally, people with Anorexia often die of illnesses associated with Anorexia, but the eating disorder is not reported as the cause of death.

One study included a target group of 6,000 people suffering from anorexia nervosa, tracking them over a 30-year period. The study revealed death rates that were six times higher when compared to that of the general population. These deaths were due to the direct or indirect consequences of an eating disorder, substance abuse, or completed suicide.

Eating Disorders and Age

Body dissatisfaction often develops at a young age and can be one of the precursors to the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorders and body image distortion can start early in childhood. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA),2 42 percent of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds have a fear of “being fat.” Since these concerns and body perceptions start at such a young age, unless treated, they may continue into one’s teenage years and through adulthood.

Among college aged females, 25 percent of women report that they have engaged in bulimic behavior including a cycle of bingeing and purging as a form of weight control. Additionally, over half of teenage girls and approximately one-third of teenage boys participate in weight control by skipping meals, excessive exercise, taking laxatives, or vomiting.

The Impact of Media

Poor body image has been a long-standing problem in the U.S. due in part to the portrayal of the “ideal” body type in the media. In reality, only about 5 percent of American females fit this preconceived ideal. Yet, millions of girls aspire to a certain thinness or “goal weight” that may not be a healthy match for their body type, height, lifestyle, or genetics. Whether directly or indirectly, media affects our perception of what a “healthy” or “normal” body type should look like.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, this constant media message has a direct impact.3 It reports:

● Nearly half of girls from 5th-12th grade have reported wanting to lose weight based on images seen in magazines; and
● Almost 70 percent of girls in the same age range admit magazine photos influence their idea of what the “perfect” body type is.

Mental and Physical Effects

When a person experiences anorexia nervosa, the body goes through a cycle of starvation, which deplete the nutrients needed for normal functioning. It slows down the body’s processes in order to conserve energy and subsequently may result in health issues including:

● Low blood pressure
● Abnormally slow heart rate
● Increased risk for heart failure
● Reduction of bone density and muscle loss
● Dehydration
● Fatigue
● Hair loss

For those who suffer from bulimia nervosa, the cycle of bingeing and purging disrupts the entire digestive system and can lead to disruption of the heart and other major organs. It creates an imbalance in electrolytes within the body and can lead to a gastric rupturing or a rupture of the esophagus due to the frequency of vomiting.

Eating disorder statistics also reveal that binge eating disorder shows many of the associated health risks linked to obesity such as:

● High cholesterol
● High blood pressure
● Heart disease
● Type 2 diabetes

It is also not uncommon for eating disorders to occur simultaneously with other psychiatric disorders including alcohol or substance abuse, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Eating disorder statistics show that nearly half of the people who suffer from this disease also meet the criteria for depression. Among this population, only 1 in 10 people will receive treatment.

Casa Palmera provides support for those battling eating disorders and any related problems with substance abuse. Due to the complex nature of eating disorders and the medical attention necessary to help treat them, each treatment experience is individualized and tailored to the person’s symptoms, medical history and needs.

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