Eating Issues Rank Second to Depression in UK Mental Health Diagnoses

Eating issues (ED) usually first develop during childhood and early adolescence. Eating issues include anorexia (AN), bulimia (BN), and eating issues not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and can vary in prevalence by age and gender. EDs represent a significant public health problem as they are often difficult to treat, have a low rate of remission, and are associated with high rates of suicide and mortality.

Therefore, it is imperative that gender- and age-related ED factors be accurately identified so that early diagnosis, intervention, and prevention strategies can be implemented. To get a better idea of the prevalence and rates of EDs in the UK, Nadia Micali of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Unit of the University College London’s Institute of Child Health recently led a study examining data from over 9,000 people. The medical data spanned ten years and revealed diagnoses of ED, AN, and BN, as well as the age of diagnosis.

After thoroughly reviewing all the data, Micali found that 37.2% of the subjects had received diagnoses of ED. This figure was slightly higher than the 32.3% rate that was reported in the previous years. When Micali looked at subtypes of EDs, she found that although AN and BN rates remained relatively stable across the decade, EDNOS diagnoses rose. Boys represented the largest segment of those with EDNOS with age of diagnosis between 10 and 14, while AN onset age was 15-19 and BN set in between ages 20 and 29. These rates were different than those of the girls, who had an average age of ED onset, regardless of type, between 15 and 19.

At the peak age of diagnosis (age 15–19 years), it is estimated that two girls in every 1,000 are likely to be newly diagnosed with an ED in the UK, said Micali. This rate is second only to depression, which affects the same age group, but is diagnosed in nearly 12 out of every 1000 girls. Micali hopes that her study underscores the importance of identifying EDs in young girls and boys as early as possible, as the results presented here clearly show that EDs are a growing national problem in the UK.

Micali, N., Hagberg, K.W., Petersen, I., et al. (2013). The incidence of eating disorders in the UK in 2000-2009: Findings from the General Practice Research Database. BMJ Open 2013;3: e002646. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002646

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  • jerome


    June 19th, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    wholesome food and food that is grown right,coupled with some restriction of unhealthy and processed food in the market would def help.when I down down the aisle at the supermarket most of what I see is unhealthy food.step outside and there is a fast food joint at a distance of every five minutes.what do we expect our youngsters to pick up?

  • Mike T

    Mike T

    June 20th, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    What is going on in this world with these kids who, surrounded by so much, refuse to eat it? All because of what they think that the ideal form should be? Doesn’t it feel wrong to them in some ways to deny themselves the pleasures of food when there are people all around the world to have so much? Skewed priorities.

  • Katie


    June 24th, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Well this is downright frightening!
    Think about this- if the rate is like that in the UK I can only imagine how the numbers are here in the US.

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