Eating Disorder Statistics

Eating disorders affect people of every age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation and background. Learn more about the populations affected—including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities and people in larger bodies—in ANAD’s eating disorder statistics.

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General Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide.1
  • 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.2
  • Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”1
  • 28-74% of risk for eating disorders is through genetic heritability.1
  • Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.1
  • 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.2
  • About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.1
  • The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year.2

Eating Disorder Statistics—BIPOC

  • BIPOC are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.3
  • BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.2
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.4
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.3
  • Hispanic people are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.3
  • 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

Eating Disorder Statistics—LGBTQ+

  • Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men.6
  • Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.6
  • Transgender college students report experiencing disordered eating at approximately four times the rate of their cisgender classmates.7
  • 32% of transgender people report using their eating disorder to modify their body without hormones.8
  • 56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body.8
  • Gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction in transgender people is often cited as a key link to eating disorders.7
  • Non-binary people may restrict their eating to appear thin, consistent with the common stereotype of androgynous people in popular culture.7

Eating Disorder Statistics—People with Disabilities

  • Women with physical disabilities are more likely to develop eating disorders.9
  • 20-30% of adults with eating disorders also have autism.10
  • 3-10% of children and young people with eating disorders also have autism.10
  • 20% of women with anorexia have high levels of autistic traits. There is some evidence that these women benefit the least from current eating disorder treatment models.10
  • ADHD is the most commonly missed diagnosis in relation to disordered eating.11

Eating Disorder Statistics—People in Larger Bodies

  • Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”1
  • Larger body size is both a risk factor for developing an eating disorder and a common outcome for people who struggle with bulimia and binge eating disorder.12
  • People in larger bodies are half as likely as those at a “normal weight” or “underweight” to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.13

Eating Disorder Statistics—Athletes

  • Athletes report higher rates of excessive exercise than non‐athletes.14
  • Athletes are more likely to screen positive for an eating disorder than non‐athletes, but percentages across all probable eating disorder diagnoses are similar.14
  • Athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due to stigma, accessibility, and sport‐specific barriers.14

Eating Disorder Statistics—Veterans

  • The most common type of eating disorders among military members is bulimia nervosa.”15
  • Body dysmorphic disorder affects 1-3% of the overall population but 13% of male military members and 21.7% of female military members.15
  • A survey of 3,000 female military members found that the majority of respondents exhibited eating disorder symptoms.15
  • One study found high rates of body dissatisfaction and previous disordered eating behaviors in a sample of young, female Marine Corps recruits.15

Sources

  1. “Eating Disorders by the Numbers” by Millie Plotkin, MLS and F.E.A.S.T.
  2. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America by the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) and the Academy for Eating Disorders.
  3. “People of Color and Eating Disorders” by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
  4. “Race, Ethnicity, and Eating Disorder Recognition by Peers” by Margarita Sala, Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodríguez, Cynthia M. Bulik, and Anna Bardone-Cone.
  5. “Eating Disorder Symptoms in Asian American College Students” by Rachel C. Uri, Ya-Ke Wu, Jessica H. Baker, and Melissa A. Munn-Chernoff.
  6. “Eating Disorders in LGBTQ+ Populations” by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
  7. “Eating Disorders in Transgender People” by Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS.
  8. “Transgender Clients’ Experiences of Eating Disorder Treatment” by Mary E. Duffy, Kristin E. Henkel, and Valerie A. Earnshaw.
  9. “The Connection Between Disabilities and Eating Disorders” by Montecatini and Eating Disorder Hope.
  10. “Trajectories of Autistic Social traits in Childhood and Adolescence and Disordered Eating Behaviours at Age 14 Years” by Dr. Francesca Solmi, Francesca Bentivegna, Helen Bould, William Mandy, Radha Kothari, Dheeraj Rai, David Skuse, and Glyn Lewis.
  11. “ADHD and Disordered Eating” by James Greenblatt, MD and Walden Behavioral Care.
  12. “Obesity & Eating Disorders” by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (Australia).
  13. “Eating Disorders Common in Overweight, Obese Young Adults” by Kristen Monaco for MedPage Today.
  14. “Comparing Eating Disorder Characteristics and Treatment in Self‐identified Competitive Athletes and Non‐athletes from the National Eating Disorders Association Online Screening Tool” by Rachael E. Flatt, Laura M. Thornton, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons‐Craft, Katherine N. Balantekin, Lauren Smolar, Claire Mysko, Denise E. Wilfley, C. Barr Taylor, J. D. DeFreese, Anna M. Bardone‐Cone, and Cynthia M. Bulik.
  15. “What’s Eating Our Veterans?” by Meaghan Mobbs for Psychology Today.