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By On April 27th, 2018

Eating disorders affect all races, sexes, and ages according to new study

Despite what most stereotypes would have you believe, eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, and ethnic or racial groups. This has been backed by numerous past studies, but a new report published in the journal Biological Psychiatry provides the latest look at just how widespread eating disorders are across demographics.

In the latest study from the University at Albany School of Public Health, a team or researchers analyzed data collected from over 35,000 US adults.

Based on their data, white women were still statistically the most likely to develop anorexia. Specifically, women were more likely to be diagnosed compared to men and white people were more at risk than other races or ethnic groups.

However, the risk of bulimia was statistically consistent among all ethnic or racial groups, and fewer non-Hispanic black people had lifetime binge eating disorder (BED) compared to Hispanic and white respondents.

Notably, the report also found that all three “major” eating disorders were linked to significant psychosocial impairment.

“Although eating disorders may not be as prevalent as some other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or alcohol and drug use disorders, they are common and found in men and women across ethnic/racial groups and occur throughout the lifespan,” lead author Tomoko Udo, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior, University at Albany School of Public Health, New York, told Medscape Medical News.

“Binge eating disorder, a new ‘formal’ diagnosis in the DSM-5, is important to screen for and identify, as it is associated with substantially increased risk of obesity, and all eating disorders are associated with impairments in psychosocial functioning and thus represent an important public health problem,” said Udo, speaking not only for herself but also on behalf of her coauthor, Carlos M. Grilo, Ph.D.

The team recognizes that several past studies have had similar findings, but they say there was little nationally representative population-based data on the prevalence of eating disorders.

In the past, investigators have used DSM-IV criteria to assess the prevalence of eating disorders, and prevalence rates were typically calculated by pooling data from several different samples.

“Data from large-scale nationally-representative samples assessed with diagnostic interview is required to update prevalence estimates of EDs in the US,” they add.

Udo explained that revisions to the widely used DSM-5 made binge eating disorder a formal diagnosis for the first time and lowered the frequency of bingeing necessary for a BED diagnosis.

“We felt it was important to obtain new prevalence estimates in a larger and representative sample, especially because the DSM-5 included several changes to the criteria for EDs from the earlier DSM-IV,” said Udo.

“Many researchers and clinicians expected higher estimates than those found in earlier studies as a result of ‘loosening’ of diagnostic criteria for EDs,” she noted.

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