In 2013, the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s primary guide for diagnoses, was published. Major revisions updated the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. Yet researchers have not studied the prevalence of eating disorders since 2007.
New research in Biological Psychiatry updates prevalence data for eating disorders. It is the largest study on eating disorders in the U.S. population to date.
How Common Are Eating Disorders?
The study included a national sample of 36,306 adults. The data came from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Participants completed structured diagnostic interviews using the research-validated methods. These interviews allowed researchers to estimate national prevalence rates for various eating disorders.
- 0.80% of adults meet diagnostic criteria for anorexia at some point in their lives.
- 0.05% of adults experience anorexia in a given 12-month period.
- Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic black adults are much less likely than white adults to be diagnosed with anorexia during their lifetimes.
- 0.28% of adults meet diagnostic criteria for bulimia at some point in their lives.
- 0.14% of adults experience bulimia in a given 12-month period.
- The lifetime and 12-month prevalence rates for bulimia do not significantly differ by ethnicity or race.
Binge Eating (BED)
- 0.85% of adults meet diagnostic criteria for binge eating at some point in their lives.
- 0.44% of adults experience binge eating in a given 12-month period.
- The lifetime prevalence rates for BED are lower for black adults than for white or Hispanic adults.
The study found that eating disorders are relatively common. Yet the rates of eating disorders are much higher among women than men. This trend held true after researchers adjusted for age, ethnicity, race, income, and education.
The researchers had expected to find higher prevalence rates than in previous studies. They had thought since the new criteria for eating disorders was less strict, more people would qualify. Yet the prevalence rates for bulimia and BED were lower than previous findings. The prevalence of anorexia was similar to prior estimates. The study authors say more large-scale studies may be needed to explain these findings.
The Long-Lasting Effects of Eating Disorders
Eating disorder news stories often focus on adolescent girls and young adult women. Yet the study found eating disorders occur across ages and in all demographic groups. Symptoms often lasted for years. Eating issues affected well-being and often undermined relationships and daily activities.
Eating issues are treatable with the right support. Therapy can help people with eating disorders understand their relationship with food. It can also help people identify healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions.
- Prevalence of eating disorders taken from largest sample in the US. (2018, May 30). Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-05-prevalence-disorders-largest-sample.html
- Udo, T. & Grilo, C. M. (2018). Prevalence and correlates of DSM-5-defined eating disorders in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. Biological Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(18)31440-9/fulltext
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