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How Common Are Eating Disorders?

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Updated January 25, 2013

Question: How Common Are Eating Disorders?
Answer:

When I tell people that I work primarily with eating disorders and also write about them, they often ask me how common they are. They are often surprised at the number of people who are suffering. Unfortunately, shame is a common emotion experienced by people who have an eating disorder, resulting in a great deal of secrecy around the condition. Most experts agree that eating disorders are under-reported as a result of this secrecy and shame.

  • It is estimated that as many as 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa in the United States.

  • Millions of others struggle with binge-eating disorder.

In contrast, there were 4.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and 2.2 million Americans living with schizophrenia in 2005.

Unfortunately, the number of people with eating disorders is growing; the number of cases of bulimia nervosa tripled between 1988 and 1993.

It is also important to note that surveys have found that 80% of Americans are unhappy with their appearance. It has also been found that 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet. These results lead to the conclusion that there are millions of people suffering from problems with body image and chronic dieting.

Sources:

National Eating Disorders Association. (2005). Facts for Activists (or Anyone!). Accessed March 29, 2012 at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/FactsAct.pdf

National Eating Disorders Association. (2005). Statistics: Eating Disorders and their precursors. Accessed March 29, 2012 at

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