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How common are eating disorders in teens?

Brooke Randolph
Marriage & Family Therapy Specialist

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that more than half a million adolescents in the United States could qualify for a diagnosed eating disorder according to research published at Archives of General Psychiatry. The study included structured interviews with more than 10,000 teenagers and their parents. The good news is that more than half a million is just under three percent of adolescents.

It is estimated than 0.3 percent of teens will suffer from anorexia nervosa, 0.9 percent will suffer from bulimia nervosa, and 1.6 percent will suffer from binge eating disorder. Although many of the kids will experience some mental health treatment, it is generally not eating disorder specific.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 95 percent of the estimated 24 million Americans with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. Another way to look at it is that about 1 percent of all adolescent females have an eating disorder, and the general teen population has about a 1 percent incidence of anorexia or bulimia.

In the overall population, the prevalence is higher among women, with only 5 to 15 percent of people with eating disorders being male. The prevalence is also higher in gay males and athletes than in the general population.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.