International Statistics on Eating Disorders


Eating disorders most commonly appear in puberty. Approximately 0.5 percent to 2 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa. Approximately 2 percent to 4 percent of women meet criteria for a diagnosis with bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are conditions that mainly affect women, since they develop 8 to 9 times more often in women than in men. In recent years though, this difference seems to be narrowing. In the USA anorexia nervosa is the 3rd most common disorder among teenage women. On the contrary, the incidence rate of compulsive overeating among women and men is almost the same (1.5:1), amounting to approximately 5 percent of the population.

Anorexia nervosa is one of the most dangerous psychiatric conditions, since 5 to 20 percent of anorexia nervosa affected patients die from the complications of the disorder. According to the latest research findings in the USA, 10 percent of young women have symptoms of bulimia nervosa.

In America, about 10 million women and 1 million men give a battle of life and death with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Due to the secrecy and shame associated with eating disorders, many cases may not be reported. Furthermore, numerous individuals are dissatisfied with their body image and suffer from sub-clinical disturbed eating behaviours. It has been proved for instance that 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their physique (Smolak, 1996). The mortality rate of anorexia nervosa in women of 15 to 24 years of age is twelve times higher than the mortality rate of ALL other causes of death (Sullivan, 1995). It should be noted that this high mortality rate regards only individuals with anorexia nervosa, without so meaning that anorexia nervosa is the main cause of death among all women aged 15 to 24. Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature death rate than all other psychiatric disorders (Sullivan, 1995).

In a bibliography review carried out in 2003, Hoek and van Hoeken noticed that: 40 percent of most recent anorexia nervosa cases affect young women of 15 to 19 years of age. From 1935 to 1989, the prevalence of anorexia nervosa significantly decreased, particularly so among women aged 15 to 24. Nevertheless, each decade since the 1930s the prevalence of the condition among young women of 5 to 19 years of age increased. During the period 1988 to 1993, the prevalence of anorexia nervosa in women aged 10 to 39 tripled. Only one third of individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa receive treatment. Only 6 percent of patients with bulimia nervosa are treated. The majority of individuals with severe eating disorders do not receive appropriate medical care.

Dieting and the Drive for Thinness

More than half of teenage girls and approximately one third of teenage boys develop non healthy eating behaviors, such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking, self-induced vomiting and laxative use, as a means to control body weight (Neumark – Sztainer, 2005).

Girls who often go on a diet are twelve times more prone to binge eating episodes than girls who are not dieting (Neumark – Sztainer, 2005). 42 percent of first-third grade high school girls would like to be thinner (Collins, 1991). 81 percent of ten-year-old children are scared of getting fat (Mellin et al., 1991). The average American woman is 163 cm tall and weighs 63.5 kgs, whereas the average model in the USA is 180 cm tall and weighs 53 kgs.

Most models are thinner than 98 percent of American women (Smolak, 1996). 46 percent of children aged 9 to 11 go on a diet “at times” or “very often”. Similarly, 82 percent of their families go on a diet “at times” or “very often” (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).

91 percent of college women who participated in a recent survey reported having tried to control their weight by dieting. In particular, 22 percent of these women reported being on a diet “frequently” or “always” (Kurth et al., 1995). In fact, dieting may take pathological dimensions in almost one third of individuals who go on a diet “within reasonable limits”. In particular, 20 to 25 percent of these individuals develop full-syndrome or partial-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995). 25 percent of American men and 45 percent of American Women are always dieting (Smolak, 1996). American people spend more than 40 billion dollars in diet products and relevant products (Smolak, 1996).


There have been some attempts to record the incidence and prevalence of Eating Disorders in Greece. These, however, are mainly derived from unpublished reports conducted within clinical settings while the Epidemiological Research Protocols necessary for reliable findings are, at the moment, absent from the literature.