General Information

  • In the United States, eating disorders are more common than Alzheimer's disease (5-10 million people have eating disorders compared to the 4 million with Azheimer's disease).
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. The majority of deaths are due to physiological complications.
  • Although recovery from anorexia nervosa is often protracted nearly a decade, the outcome of treatment is better than that of obesity or breast cancer.
  • Eating disorders cause immeasurable suffering for individuals and their families.
  • Eating disorders have reached epidemic levels in America -- all segments of society are affected: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, all minorities, and all socio-economic levels.
  • 86% of individuals report the onset of their illness by age 20.
  • Approximately seven million women and one million men currently have an eating disorder.

Statistics from an ANAD Ten Year Study

Age at Onset of Illness

  • 86% report onset of illness by the age of 20.
  • 10% report onset at 10 years or younger
  • 33% report onset between the ages of 11 and 15
  • 43% report onset between the ages of 16 and 20

Duration of Illness/Mortality

  • 77% report duration from one to fifteen years
  • 30% report duration from one to five years
  • 31% report duration from six to ten years
  • 16% report duration from eleven to fifteen years

Cost of Treatment

  • Treatment for anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia is often extremely expensive and can extend for several years.
  • Cost of inpatient treatment can be $30,000 or more a month.
  • The cost of outpatient treatment, including therapy and medical monitoring, can extend to $100,000 or more.

A Compilation of Recent Research

  • In a recent study, 27% of Ontario girls, ages 12-18, were reported to be engaged in severely problematice food and weight behavior. 1
  • The death rate for eating disorders is high: it ranges between 18% (in 20-year studies) and 20% (in 30-year follow-up studies). In fact, the annual death rate associated with anorexia is more than 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all other causes combined for females between 15 and 24 years old. 2
  • The American Psychiatric Association Work Group on Eating Disorders estimates that some 8% of women suffer from either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. 3
  • Eating disorders are now the third most common chronic illness in adolescent girls. 4
  • The death rate associated with anorexia nervosa alone is more than 12 times higher than the overall death rate among young women in the general population. 5
  • While the most common age of onset is between 14 and 25 years of age, eating disorders occur in a wide range of ages, and are increasingly seen in children as young as 10. 6
  • It is estimated that 3% of women will be affected by eating disorders in their lifetime. 7
  • Among female athletes, the prevalence of eating disorders is reported to be between 15 and 62%. 8

Dieting & The Fear of Fat - Children & Adolescents

  • 37% of Canadian females age 11, 42% of Canadian females age 13, and 48% of Canadian females age 15 say they need to lose weight. 9
  • 47% of Canadian females age 11, 58% of Canadian females age 13, and 55% of Canadian females age 15 say they would change how they look if they could. 9
  • 50% of girls with healthy weights in two Canadian high schools were dieting because they saw themselves as "overweight." 10
  • 81% of 10-year-olds restrict eating (diet). At least 46% of 9-year-olds restrict their eating. 11
  • 52% of girls begin dieting before age 14. 12
  • 71% of adolescent girls want to be thinner despite only a small proportion being over heathy weight. 13
  • The fear of being fat is so overwhelming that young girls have indicated in surveys that they are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents. 14
  • Health Canada found that almost one in every two girls and almost one in every five boys in tenth grade were either on a diet or waned to lose weight. 15

Adults & Parents

  • A survey of parents found that one in ten would abort a child if they knew it had a genetic tendency to be fat. 16
  • 70% of women are dieting and 40% are continually gaining and losing weight. 17
  • 80%-90% of women dislike the size and shape of their bodies. 18
  • Glamour magazine's 1983 Body Image survey showed that 76% of correspondents considered themselves "too fat," including 45% of those classified underweight according to 1959 weight tables. 19
  • Of women between the ages of 24 and 54 who diet, 76% diet for cosmetic rather than health reasons. 20
  • In 1984 alone, 66% of active women surveyed ranked weight control as the most important motivator for exercising. 21

Diet Industry Profits

  • Excess of $32 billion sales posted by diet industry. 22
  • The Ottawa Citizen (1990) reported Canadian sales by diet centers of at least $300 million per annum. 23


1. Jones, Jennifer, M.; Bennett, Susan, Olmsted, Marion P., Lawson, Margaret L., and Rodin, Gary. Disordered Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in Teenaged Girls: A School-Based Study. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2001; 165(5) 547-52.

2. Cavanaugh, Carolyn. What we know about eating disorders: facts and statistics. In Lemberg, Raymond and Cohn, Leigh (Eds) (1999). Eating Disorders: A reference sourcebook. Oryx Press. Phoenix, AZ.

3. American Psychiatric Association Work Group on Eating Disorders. (2000). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with eating disorders (revision). American Journal of Psychiatry; 157 (1 Suppl): 1-39.

4. Adolescent Medicine Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society. Eating Disorders in adolescents: principles of diagnosis and treatment. Paediatrics and Child Health 1998; 3(3) 189-92. Reaffirmed January 2001.

5. Sullivan PF. Mortality in anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1995; 152(7): 1073-4.

6. Cavanaugh, Carolyn J. and Lemberg, Ray. What we know about eating disorders: facts and statistics. In Lemberg, Raymond and Cohn, Leigh (Eds) (1999). Eating Disorders: A reference sourcebook. Oryx. Press. Phoenix, AZ.

7. Zhu AJ, Walsh BT. Pharmacologic treatment of eating disorders. Can J Psychiatry 2002; 47:3227-34.

8. Costin, Carolyn. (1999) The Eating Disorder Source Book: A comprehensive guide to the causes, treatment, and prevention of eating disorders. 2nd edition. Lowell House: Los Angeles.

9. Health and Welfare Canada. The health of Canada's youth, views and behaviours of 11-, 13- and 15-year-olds from 11 countries. (1992). Anonymous. Ottawa ON: Minister of Supply and Services. H39-239/1993.

10. (CMAJ, 1986).

11. Mellin, Scully and Irwin, Paper presented at American Dietetic Assoc. Annual Meeting, October 1986. (Berkley study)

12. Johnson, et al, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1984, 13.

13. Paxton et al (1991). Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20, 361-379.

14. Lisa Berzins, Dying to be thin: the prevention of eating disorders and the role of federal policy. APA co-sponsored congressional briefing. USA. 11/1997.

15. Trends in the Health of Canadian Youth. A report based on the data collected through the 1989/90, 1993/94 and 1997/98 survey cycles for the World Health Organization Cross-National Collaborative Study: Health Behaviours in School-Age Children (HBSC).

16. Fraser, Laura. (1997). Losing it: America's obsession with weight and the industry that feeds on it. Dutton Press. New York.

17. A report on the behaviour and attitudes of Canadians with respect to weight consciousness and weight control. The Canadian Gallup Poll, Ltd. June 1984.

18. Hutchison, Marcia. (1985). Transforming Body Image. The Crossing Press, New York.

19. Wooley, S.C. & Wooley, O.W. (1985). Intensive outpatient and residential treatment for bulimia. In Handbook for Psychotherapy for Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia., eds. Garner, D.M. & Garfinkel, P.E. The Guilford Press, New York. p. 392.

20. Thompson, D.M. et al. (1985). Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia: The Socio-cultural Context. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 1 (3), 20-36.

21. A report on the behaviour and attitudes of Canadians with respect to weight consciousness and weight control. The Canadian Gallup Poll, Ltd. June 1984.

22. Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth (1990). U.S. News of the World Report (1990).

23. Eater's Digest, 3, Summer 1992.

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770.953.0080 Ext. 302