In this article, we go through the latest statistics surrounding eating disorders, with a focus on the UK.
We discuss general eating disorder statistics, statistics for specific eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, statistics relating to non-specific eating disorders, and statistics relating to treatment for eating disorders.
General eating disorder statistics
- According to NICE, there are 266,300 people aged 16 and over with anorexia nervosa; 443,800 people with bulimia nervosa, 1,398,000 people with binge eating disorder, and 1,309,000 people with other specified feeding and eating disorders in the UK. This accounts for, respectively, 0.6% of the population (who have anorexia nervosa), 1% (who have bulimia nervosa), 3.2% (who have binge eating disorder and 3% (who have another specified feeding and eating disorder). 
- Another NICE survey put the number of people with eating disorder at 700,000, although they add that ‘this is likely an underestimate as many cases do not present to health services.’ 
- The same NICE data suggests that 90% of those with eating disorders are female. 
- Those most at risk of developing eating disorder are teenagers and young adults. 
- The most common form of eating disorder is ‘atypical’ – eating disorders come in many different forms. The second most common form of eating disorder is binge eating disorder, followed by bulimia nervosa. The least common is anorexia nervosa. 
- Eating disorders affect up to 15% of young women and 5.5% of young men in high-income countries. 
- The average duration of an eating disorder is 6 years. 
- Mortality rates for people with eating disorders are nearly twice as high as the average, and 5.86 higher for people with anorexia. 
- The impact on caregivers of caring for someone with an eating disorder can be high – indeed, studies have found the impact to be as high or higher than that of caring for someone with depression or schizophrenia. 
- Less than half of people who suffer from an eating disorder will make a full recovery. 
- A study by Galmiche (2019) found that, globally, around 8.4% of women and 2.2% of men suffered from an eating disorder. 
General UK eating disorder statistics
- In 2018/19, in the UK, there were 19,040 admissions to hospital due to eating disorder. This is up from 13,885 in 2016/17. 
- The majority of patients with anorexia in the UK were between the ages of 13 and 15. 
- 25% of admissions to UK hospitals for eating disorder in 2018/19 were for children under the age of 18, according to NHS statistics. 
- Among children being admitted to UK hospitals for eating disorder, over half were admitted for anorexia. 
- 10 boys and six girls under the age of nine were admitted for anorexia. 
- 10% of people in the UK experience either anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. 
- The total cost to the NHS associated with eating disorders is £1.26 billion annually. 
- 20% of UK services take longer than 2 months to arrange an initial assessment for eating disorder support. 10% of services take longer than 2 months between the initial assessment and eating disorder treatment. 
- In a 2008 survey, only 15% said they felt that UK GPs understood eating disorders and were able to provide useful support. 
Anorexia nervosa statistics
- Anorexia nervosa is both an eating disorder and a mental health condition. It is characterised by consistently eating less food than required, which leads to very low body weight and ill health. It also has a mental component, whereby sufferers believe themselves to be overweight when the opposite is true.
- Between 2 and 4% of women will suffer from AN (anorexia nervosa) over the course of their lifetime. 
- Anorexia is between 4-12 times more common in women than in men. It is most common among young people, with the highest rates in the 15-19 age bracket. 
- Anorexia causes more deaths than any other mental health disorder. It has a weighted crude mortality rate of 5.1 deaths per 1000 person-years. 
- 1 in 5 deaths of people with anorexia are due to suicide. 
- Anorexia has a similar incidence rate to type 1 diabetes. 
Bulimia nervosa statistics
- Bulimia nervosa, often referred to simply as bulimia, is an eating disorder which involves binge eating (eating large amounts of food in one sitting) and then purging (via intentional vomiting, overexercising, or using laxatives/diuretics).
- A study by Galmiche found that roughly 1.5% of females worldwide suffered from bulimia, compared with 0.1% of males. 
- Bulimia tends to occur either in adolescence or in early adulthood. 
- The weighted crude mortality rate for bulimia is 1.74 per 1000 person-years. 
Binge eating disorder statistics
- Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterised by eating large amounts of food in a single sitting, so that you are uncomfortably full. These binges may be planned, frequently happen alone, and may involve specific foods. Binges are often followed by feelings of guilt or shame.
- Binge eating disorder (BED) differs from bulimia in that it does not typically involve purging (see above).
- In Europe, around 1.9% of women suffer from BED, compared with 0.3% of men. 
- BED often co-occurs with obesity, and has a higher prevalence among older people and men than other eating disorders. 
- One in 2-3 people with binge eating disorder of bulimia nervosa will become obese. This means that bulimia and binge eating disorder carry a high risk of health complications. 
Atypical or non-specified eating disorder statistics
- Atypical eating disorders often share things in common with other, specific eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia), but may differ in some respects. For example, someone whose weight is slightly higher than that expected of a person with anorexia would be said to have an ‘atypical’ eating disorder. Atypical eating disorders are the most common form of eating disorder.
- Galmiche estimated that 10.1% of females had an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) compared to 0.9% of males. 
- In the US, around 4.8% of young people and 4.6% of adults have an unspecified eating disorder. 
Treatment for eating disorder statistics (including treatment in the UK)
- Up to 60 of adolescents with anorexia nervosa make a full recovery when they receive early expert treatment. 
- However, adult remission rates for anorexia are only around 20-30% with best available treatment. 
- 30-60% of people with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder make a full recovery with CBT. 
- Only a third of eating disorders are detected by doctors. 
- In the UK, according to one study, only 23% of people with eating disorders receive treatment. 
- In the UK, anorexia patients are hospitalised for an average of 4 months. 
- There has been a steep rise in the number of young people hospitalised for AN in recent years. This has been most noticeable in women aged 15-19. 
- Among other mental disorders in the UK, anorexia has the highest proportion of hospital stays that are more than 90 days long, and the highest median length of stay at 36 days. 
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