Eating Disorder Statistics

Eating disorders affect people of every age, race, size, 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

BIPOC Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

LGBTQ+ Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

People with Disabilities Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

People in Larger Bodies Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

Athletes Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

Veterans Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 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

Children & Young Adults Eating Disorder Statistics

  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.16
  • 81% of 10 year old children are afraid of being fat.17
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.18
  • 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives.19
  • In a college campus survey, 91% of the women admitted to controlling their weight through dieting.20

Sources

  1. Arcelus, Jon et al. “Mortality rates in patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. A meta-analysis of 36 studies.” Archives of general psychiatry 68,7 (2011): 724-31. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.74
  2. Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/.
  3. Becker, A. E., Franko, D. L., Speck, A., & Herzog, D. B. (2003). Ethnicity and differential access to care for eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 205-212. doi:10.1002/eat.10129
  4. Sala, M., Reyes-Rodríguez, M. L., Bulik, C. M., & Bardone-Cone, A. (2013). Race, ethnicity, and eating disorder recognition by peers. Eating disorders21(5), 423–436. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2013.827540
  5. Uri, R. C., Wu, Y., Baker, J. H., & Munn-Chernoff, M. A. (2021). Eating disorder symptoms in Asian American college students. Eating Behaviors, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101458
  6. Eating Disorders in LGBTQ+ Populations. (2018, February 21). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/lgbtq
  7. Lauren Muhlheim, L., PsyD, CEDS. (2020, June 20). Eating Disorders in Transgender People. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/eating-disorders-in-transgender-people-4582520
  8. Duffy, M. E., Henkel, K. E., & Earnshaw, V. A. (2016). Transgender Clients’ Experiences of Eating Disorder Treatment. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 10(3), 136-149. https://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2016.1177806
  9. Disabilities and Eating Disorders and Their Connection. (2020, September 04). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/connection-disabilities-eating-disorders#:~:text=While%20there%20is%20little%20research,likely%20to%20develop%20eating%20disorders.
  10. Solmi, F., Bentivegna, F., Bould, H., Mandy, W., Kothari, R., Rai, D., . . . Lewis, G. (2020). Trajectories of autistic social traits in childhood and adolescence and Disordered eating behaviours at age 14 years: A UK general population cohort study. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62(1), 75-85. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13255
  11. Greenblatt, J., MD. (2019, December 27). ADHD and Disordered Eating. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.waldeneatingdisorders.com/blog/adhd-and-disordered-eating/
  12. People Living in Larger Bodies & Eating Disorders. (2017). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/people-living-in-larger-bodies-and-eating-disorders/
  13. Nagata, J. M., Garber, A. K., Tabler, J. L., Murray, S. B., & Bibbins-Domingo, K. (2018). Prevalence and Correlates of Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Young adults with Overweight or Obesity. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33(8), 1337-1343. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-018-4465-z
  14. Flatt, R., Thornton, L., Fitzsimmons‐Craft, E., Balantekin, K., Smolar, L., Mysko, C., . . . Bulik, C. (2020, November 30). Comparing eating disorder characteristics and treatment in self‐identified competitive athletes and non‐athletes from the National Eating Disorders Association online screening tool. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.23415
  15. Mobbs, M. (2018, November 20). What’s Eating Our Veterans? Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-debrief/201811/whats-eating-our-veterans
  16. Collins, M., H.S.D., M.P.H. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among preadolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 10(2), 199-208. https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-108X(199103)10:2%3C199::AID-EAT2260100209%3E3.0.CO;2-D
  17. McNutt, S. W., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G. B., Crawford, P. B., Obarzanek, E., & Mellin, L. (1997). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: the NHLBI Growth and Health Study. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 20(1), 27–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1054-139X(96)00176-0
  18. Gustafson-Larson, A. M., & Terry, R. D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association92(7), 818–822. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1624650/
  19. Boutelle, K., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Resnick, M. (2002). Weight control behaviors among obese, overweight, and nonoverweight adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Psychology27(6), 531–540. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/27.6.531
  20. Noordenbos, G., Oldenhave, A., Muschter, J., & Terpstra, N. (2002). Characteristics and treatment of patients with chronic eating disorders. Eating Disorders10(1), 15–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/106402602753573531