General Eating Disorder Statistics

  • An estimated 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.2
  • 15% of women will suffer from an eating disorder by their 40s or 50s, but only 27% receive any treatment for it.64
  • Fewer than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”7, 16. In fact, people in larger bodies are at the highest risk of having developed an eating disorder in their lives, and among people in larger bodies, the higher the BMI, the higher the risk.60, 59
  • In a sample from an American emergency room, 16% of adult patients screened positive for an eating disorder.37
  • Anorexia has the highest case mortality rate and second-highest crude mortality rate of any mental illness.2
  • 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.2
  • Eating disorder sufferers with the highest symptom severity are 11 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers without eating disorder symptoms, and even those with sub-threshold symptoms are 2 times more likely.60 Patients with anorexia have a risk of suicide 18 times higher than those without an eating disorder.120
  • The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year.2

BIPOC* Eating Disorder Statistics

* BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
  • While BIPOC people are affected by eating disorders at similar rates overall as their white peers, they are about half as likely to be diagnosed. 63, 93
  • BIPOC patients with eating and weight concerns are significantly less likely to be asked about eating disorder symptoms by their doctors than are non-minority patients. 3
  • When therapists were presented with descriptions of a fictional patient—identical except for race—they were less likely to recognize eating disorder symptoms in the Black and Hispanic patient compared to the white patient. 66
  • In a study of adolescents age 11 to 25 who were suffering malnutrition from an eating disorder, only 40% received the recommended treatment, and patients who used public insurance were only one third as likely to receive the recommended mental health treatment for their eating disorders as youth with private insurance. Latinx patients were about half as likely to receive the necessary treatment as their white peers. 30
  • Asian American college students report higher rates of restriction compared with their white peers and higher rates of purging, muscle building, and cognitive restraint than their white or non-Asian BIPOC peers. 5
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian BIPOC peers. 5

LGBTQ+ Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of having an eating disorder than heterosexual people. Overall, LGBTQ+ youth are three times more likely to have an eating disorder when compared to their straight peers with homosexual and bisexual girls at 2.5 times and homosexual and bisexual boys at 6 times higher rates. 69, 71, 72
  • About 1 in 3 sexual minority teenagers say they engaged in dangerous weight control behaviors within the past month. Gay and bisexual boys are four times more likely, and lesbian and bisexual girls are twice as likely, to do so than their heterosexual peers. 70
  • About 75% of transgender college students with eating disorders attempt suicide56
  • Transgender college students are diagnosed with eating disorders at four times the rate of their cisgender classmates. 73
  • 32% of transgender people report using their eating disorder to modify their body without hormones, such as to reduce curves or halt menstruation. Even so, 56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body8

People with Co-Occurring Conditions Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Over 70% of people with eating disorders also have other conditions, most commonly anxiety and mood disorders. 74
  • People with disabilities may have body image concerns related to their disability that lead to developing and sustaining an eating disorder. 77
  • Women with certain physical disabilities may be more likely to have  eating disorder behavior. 75
  • People with diet-related chronic conditions—like diabetes and irritable bowel disease—may be at a higher risk of disordered eating. 112
  • In a study, girls with type 1 diabetes aged 9-13 were evaluated for 14 years, and by the time they were in their 20s, 40.8% met criteria for a full- or sub-threshold eating disorder, and 59.2% took part in dangerous disordered eating behavior. 113
  • Eating disorders in people with type I diabetes are associated with a significantly higher risk of severe medical complications, including more frequent and longer hospitalizations, and a greater risk of ketoacidosis and retinopathy. 124
  • People with eating disorders typically have between one and four other psychiatric disorders. Indeed, the majority of adolescents with eating disorders have at least one other psychiatric disorder, ranging from a low of 55% for anorexia to a high of 88% for bulimia. 21, 35
  • Between 13 to 58% of ARFID patients also have Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a study of children with ASD and severe food limitations, 78% ate a diet that put them at risk for five or more nutritional deficiencies. 79, 80, 81, 82
  • Between 6 and 17% of eating disorder patients also have ADHD. 86-87
  • Girls with ADHD are 3.6 times more likely to have an eating disorder in general and 5.6 times more likely to have bulimia in particular. 88
  • Between 10 and 35% of patients with eating disorders have OCD unrelated to the eating disorder. 118

People in Larger Bodies Eating Disorder Statistics

  • In a study of college and university students, just 2% of those who met criteria for eating disorders were “underweight.” 93
  • For the overall populace, the figure is usually estimated to be less than 6%60
  • People in larger bodies are at higher risk of using unhealthy weight control behaviors. 21, 52, 98
  • About 40% of “overweight“ girls and 20% of “overweight“ boys use disordered eating behaviors. 99
  • Patients meeting the standard diagnostic criteria for anorexia were 14 times more likely to receive the recommended treatment than those with atypical anorexia. 30
  • Among those who experience weight stigma, two-thirds were stigmatized by doctors, leading many to avoid seeking healthcare. 102
  • People who experience weight discrimination are 60% more likely to die. 94

Athletes Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Athletes report higher rates of excessive exercise than non‐athletes. 14
  • Female athletes are twice as likely to engage in eating disorder behavior than male athletes; however, both men (77%) and women (80%) participating in weight-dependent sports report using compensatory behaviors. 43
  • Eating disorders may be particularly hard to detect among athletes due in part to secretiveness, stigma, and symptom presentation. 47
  • Athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due to stigma, accessibility, and sport‐specific barriers. 14

Veterans Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Certain aspects of military life are thought to contribute to developing or exacerbating eating disorders, including weight and fitness requirements, the stress of combat exposure, and sexual trauma. 62
  • Body dysmorphic disorder affects 13.0% of male military members and 21.7% of female military members, more than five times the rates for the overall population107
  • One-third of overweight military personnel engage in unhealthy weight loss behavior to “make weight” while in the service, and they are more likely to suffer from eating disorder behavior later in life as veterans. 39
  • Over 16% of female military personnel and veterans have suffered from an eating disorder, with associations between the eating disorder and sexual trauma and PTSD. 108
  • In the five years studied—from 2017 to 2021–the incidence rates of eating disorders among active service  members increased by 79%61
  • In a study of military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 32.8% of female and 18.8% of male veterans showed signs of probable eating disorders, highest being atypical anorexia nervosa (13.6% of women and 4.9% of men), bulimia nervosa (6.1% of women and 3.5% of men), and binge-eating disorder (4.4% of women and 2.9% of men). 109

Children & Young Adults Eating Disorder Statistics

  • At age 6 to 10, girls start to worry about their weight, and by 14, 60 to 70% are trying to lose weight35
  • A survey found that 77% of children and adolescents as young as 12 dislike their bodies, and 45% say they are regularly bullied about how they look128
  • Weight-related teasing is a primary way kids are bullied, and kids in bigger bodies are significantly more likely to be bullied than their smaller-bodied classmates. 103, 104
  • Girls who were teased about their weight were two times more likely to be “overweight,” 1.5 times more likely to binge eat, and 1.5 times more likely to use extreme methods of weight control five years later. 99
  • 22% of children and adolescents have unhealthy eating behaviors that could lead to or indicate an eating disorder. 89
  • A study found 8% of 15-year-old girls diet at a severe level, and their risk of developing an eating disorder was 18 times greater than her non-dieting peers. 90
  • About 12% of adolescent girls have some form of eating disorder126
  • Just 20% of adolescents with eating disorders disorders seek treatment38

Male Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Men represent up to 25% of people with eating disorders45
  • Even so, women are up to five times more likely to be diagnosed and 1.5 times more likely to be treated for an eating disorder than men are. 93
  • Men with eating disorders tend not to recognize their symptoms as problematic, in part due to the stereotype of eating disorders as being a “woman’s problem.” 110
  • By the time men with eating disorder symptoms present in healthcare settings, their cases tend to be more severe, in part due to their denial of symptoms, anticipated or encountered prejudice, and even denial of treatment because of their gender. 44
  • Healthcare professionals tend to minimize the symptoms of men with eating disorders. 46

Older Adults Eating Disorder Statistics

  • While most older adults with eating disorders have had symptoms since adolescence, life transitions and stressors common in older adulthood—such as children leaving the home and menopause—can make eating disorders much worse70
  • Among women age 50 and over, 71.2% say they are currently trying to lose weight, and 79.1% said their weight or shape had a “moderate” effect on or was “the most important” part of their self-esteem. 125
  • 41% of women over 50 have current or previous core eating disorder symptoms, divided into 13.3% who have current and 27.7% with past symptoms. 125

Peer Mentorship Statistics

  • Compare to other patients, eating disorder patients who receive mentorship report significant improvement in 7 of 12 areas related to quality of life, and greater psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. 129
  • Patients in eating disorder treatment are 119% more likely to attend appointments with their providers when they also receive mentorship. 129
  • Eating disorder patients who receive mentorship from peers who have recovered from an eating disorder see greater reduction in body dissatisfaction and anxiety than those who received support from people without lived experience. 130
  • Parents and families supporting someone with an eating disorder got significant value out of connecting with a mentor. They benefited greatly from the support, information, and compassion received. 131
  • Research suggests that using trained mentors to deliver mental health care could increase the number of youth receiving evidence-based mental health care. 132

  To learn more, visit our Mentorship In Eating Disorder Treatment page.

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