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Eating Disorder Statistics

Losing weight or indulging in food may seem harmless, but it can have severe consequences. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among mental illnesses. To prevent these risks, we need to understand how they affect people of different genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds. By increasing awareness, and education, and identifying warning signs early, we can protect vulnerable groups from these dangerous eating disorders.

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Statistics of Eating Disorders

Disordered eating behaviors have become a huge public health issue in the United States and have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.

What may seem like an innocent attempt at weight loss or binge eating episode disguised as “indulging” could be evidence of a deeper issue.

Understanding how eating disorders affect certain genders, ages, and ethnicities is the first step in addressing the serious risks eating disorders pose. With increased education and awareness, at-risk demographics can be on the lookout for the signs of eating disorders before they turn fatal.

How Common Are Eating Disorders?

Rates of eating disorders have risen over the years and don’t seem to show any signs of slowing. In fact, a recent study showed that the lifetime prevalence of eating disorders has risen from 3.5% to 7.8% from 2000 to 2018.

Current numbers from a recent study by the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) have shown that 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. That’s more than the population of Florida (22 million).

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Impact of Eating Disorders

Considering how prevalent eating disorders are in the US, it’s helpful to understand how this illness affects different demographics.

While anyone of any background has the potential to develop an eating disorder, studies show that some demographics experience higher rates of eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Statistics by Gender

While eating disorders are found in all genders, American women are twice as likely to have an eating disorder than men. Females tend to face more intense pressures to fit a certain body type, especially due to the prevalence of social media.

Further research from the National Eating Disorders Association shows:

  • Between 0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa.
  • Between 1.1% and 4.6% of females and 0.1% to 0.5% of males will develop bulimia.
  • 2% of the adolescent girls met the criteria for DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
  • When the researchers included nonspecific eating disorder symptoms, a total of 13.2% of the girls had suffered from a DSM-5 eating disorder by age 20.
  • 5% of women and 2.0% of men had binge eating disorder during their lives.
  • In a group of adolescents with eating disorders, 14% met the criteria for ARFID and were more likely to be younger males.

Eating Disorder Statistics by Age Group

Research from Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that the most common age of onset for eating disorders is between 12-25 years old.

While there isn’t one exact reason why this age group is more likely to develop an eating disorder, some of the most common factors include:

  • Negative body image and low self-esteem
  • Participating in certain high school or college sports or aesthetic activities like ballet or figure skating
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Personality traits such as perfectionism or rigid thinking
  • Untreated mental illnesses like depression or anxiety disorders

However, eating disorders also affect people older than 25 years old. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), 13% of women over the age of 50 are engaged in some sort of eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Statistics by Race

A study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill college students found that:

  • Among Caucasians, 82.4% met the criteria for anorexia, 47.2% for bulimia, and 60.8% for binge eating disorder
  • Among African Americans, 87.4% met the criteria for anorexia nervosa, 54.7% for bulimia nervosa, and 64.6% for binge eating disorder
  • Among Asians, 84.1% met the criteria for anorexia, 47.3% for bulimia, and 64.2% for binge eating disorder
  • Among Hispanics, 86.0% met the criteria for anorexia, 53.4% for bulimia, and 69.7% for binge eating disorder

The results of this study align with general research that indicates that no one ethnicity is more likely to have an eating disorder. However, race does affect how likely an individual is to seek treatment.

  • BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms like restriction, purging, laxative abuse, and other disorder eating behaviors.
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.
  • BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.

Eating Disorder Statistics by Comorbidity

Unfortunately, eating disorders tend to co-occur with other psychiatric disorders.

  • According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population.
  • A study of more than 2,400 individuals hospitalized for an eating disorder found that 97% had one or more co-occurring conditions, including:
    • 94% had co-occurring mood disorders, primarily major depression
    • 56% were diagnosed with anxiety disorders
    • 20% had obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • 22% had post-traumatic stress disorder
    • 22% had an alcohol or substance use disorder
  • Approximately 1 in 4 people with an eating disorder have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery Statistics

Sadly, eating disorders are the deadliest mental health conditions, even higher than deaths due to opioid overdose. Because eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (1 in 5 people), seeking treatment is imperative for both recovery and survival.

Based on research from the National Eating Disorder Association:

  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.
  • With treatment, that number falls to 2-3%.
  • With treatment, about 60% of people with eating disorders enter full recovery.
  • Only 1 in 10 individuals with an eating disorder will receive treatment.

Getting Help for Eating Disorders

If you or a loved one is ready to get help for your eating disorder, you can start by speaking with your doctor or therapist about seeking treatment. There are also helplines that can help, such as ANAD’s Eating Disorders Helpline or the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline.

If you don’t have a doctor or therapist, or you don’t know where to get started, SAMHSA offers an online treatment locator, or you can call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to find out what eating disorder treatment providers are available in your area.

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FAQs About Eating Disorder Statistics

How many people in the US have an eating disorder?

According to the Academy for Eating Disorders, 9% or 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Within that number, 7 million women and 1 million men will meet the criteria for an eating disorder.

Have the number of people with eating disorders increased?

Yes. One study from 2000 to 2018 showed an increase in rates of eating disorders from 3.5% to 7.8%. Eating disorders are considered a huge public health issue, as they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness at 10,200 deaths per year.

How many girls have eating disorders?

It’s believed that around 7 million American females will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Women tend to have a higher risk of eating disorders, likely due to certain risk factors such as increased praise towards thinness and ridicule of obesity.

At what age do eating disorders usually start?

A reported 95% of individuals with eating disorders develop them between the ages of 12 and 25, often affecting adolescent girls the most.

Do eating disorders go away?

No, there is no cure for eating disorders, nor will they “go away” on their own. However, patients can achieve full recovery with the right healthcare treatment and support from loved ones.

What is the most common eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder, worsened by the extreme ease of obtaining the sugary foods that are often binged upon. Binge eating disorder also has a strong connection to the current obesity problem in the United States.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  11. Uri, R. C., Wu, Y.-K., Baker, J. H., & Munn-Chernoff, M. A. (2020, November 24). Eating Disorder Symptoms in Asian American College Students. Eating Behaviors.

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