Eating Disorder Statistics & Trends 

Eating disorders affect a small percentage of the overall population, but that still translates to millions of people who are impacted by these conditions. 

And research suggests that many more people silently struggle with an eating disorder without ever being officially diagnosed.

Eating disorder statistics

Most upsettingly, many people who need help for their ailment never receive it for a number of reasons. But there are many treatment options available for eating disorders, which can help all types of people make a full recovery.

Key Factors to Consider

There are several reasons why it can be difficult to get a true understanding of the impact of eating disorders

There is no official authority for keeping track of these cases. Eating disorder statistics mostly come piecemeal, relying on any number of different studies that use any number of different metrics or measurements to evaluate who gets diagnosed with an eating disorder and what constitutes recovery.

For a majority of the time these disorders have been studied, researchers have focused on a specific portion of the population—namely, young, white females—which can serve to skew numbers or hide trends taking hold in other groups of people.

And on top of those who may be overlooked by studies, many people choose to never disclose their disordered eating behavior at all, making true numbers impossible to determine.

Still, researchers do their best to understand all angles of the problem, and over the years, their work has uncovered several trends. 

Eating Disorder Trends

9% of Americans will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Some studies have attempted to estimate how many people, overall, will deal with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. One recent analysis done by Harvard’s School of Public Health put the number at 9% of Americans—or 28.8 million people. [1] 

That shocking statistic was supported by another study conducted in 2021, which showed a jump in the prevalence of eating disorders worldwide. 

While 3.5% of the global population was estimated to struggle with an eating disorder between 2000 to 2006, that number rose to 7.8% between 2013 to 2018, the study found. One of the biggest changes quoted by the authors was the number of men reporting disordered eating patterns. [2]

These numbers bear out anecdotally, as well. Almost half of all Americans in one poll reported knowing someone with an eating disorder. [3] 

Anorexia Statistics

Anorexia nervosa (AN)—a condition revolving around severely limited food intake—is one of the most common eating disorders and also one of the most frequently studied. 

It’s estimated that up to 0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will struggle with AN at any given time. [4] In fact, anorexia nervosa is considered the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. [3] 

Anorexia is the third-most common chronic illness among adolescents. [3]

While many factors can contribute to the development of this eating disorder, co-occurring mental health conditions often play a role. For example, 20% of women with anorexia also express traits of autism. [5] Depression and anxiety are other commonly occurring co-diagnoses.

Tragically, anorexia nervosa also often leads to premature death. Some studies show that as many as 20% of people with AN die early from complications of the condition, including suicide and heart problems. [3]

Bulimia Statistics

People with bulimia nervosa (BN) bounce between two dangerous behaviors, engaging in episodes of binge eating, which are followed by episodes of purging. 

It’s estimated that 0.3% of the U.S. population struggles with bulimia nervosa. And while anyone can develop the condition, it’s been found five times more often in women compared to men. [6]

Racial disparities in bulimia exist too. Some research shows that Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teens to binge eat and purge. [7] 

Still, not all the numbers are quite as bleak. 

While bulimia nervosa rates increased during the 1980s and early 1990s, the number has mostly flattened out since then or even slightly dipped, according to some studies. [4] 

Binge Eating Disorder Statistics

People with binge eating disorder (BED) take in large amounts of food in one sitting, similar to binge eating episodes of BN. But they don’t use compensatory behaviors to expel excess food and calories from their system. 

Perhaps due to the lack of this second extreme behavior, BED is one of the most prevalent eating disorders in America, experienced by 3.5% of women and 2% of men. All told, the condition is estimated to be three times more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined. [4] 

Binge eating disorder is 3x more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. [4]

Still, BED is also one of the most recently-recognized eating disorders, and it’s possible many people may deal with the condition without being diagnosed.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder Statistics

While some eating disorders have been specifically defined by a number of traits or other factors, there are many other types of disordered eating behavior that don’t meet these criteria. 

Doctors call this other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED). 

For years, OSFED—previously called eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS—was considered a more “mild” form of an eating disorder. Now, doctors know these disordered eating behaviors can still present serious issues.

Sadly, people with OSFED have been found just as likely to die from complications of their eating disorder as people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. [8] Regardless of their specific behavior, they’re still at a generally higher risk of developing obesity-related complications, nutritional deficiencies, or other health problems. 

And the condition is sadly not uncommon. In one study, OSFED was found to be the second-most-prevalent eating disorder diagnosis. [9] 

Person looking at statistics

Statistics on Eating Disorder Treatment 

Thankfully, all types of eating disorders are treatable. The combination of medical therapies, psychotherapy, and medication, along with nutritional counseling and education, have been found to help people make both a physical and mental recovery. 

Unfortunately, far too many people with eating disorders don’t get help at all. Researchers say only 1 out of every 10 people with eating disorders gets treatment. [3] 

Shame keeps many people from disclosing their eating habits to loved ones or medical professionals. And some people aren’t aware that their disordered eating behavior qualifies as a mental health issue.

Studies found that only about a third of people with AN, and roughly 43% each of people with BN and BED sought treatment specifically for their eating disorder between 2001 and 2004. [6]

This ratio can be even higher in some populations.

It’s been estimated that athletes, overall, are less likely to seek out help for an eating disorder.[5] And some studies indicate that people of color are half as likely to get an eating disorder diagnosis or treatment. [1] 

People in larger bodies are also thought to be about half as likely as those in smaller bodies to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. [5]

Finding Help for Eating Disorders

While it’s important to understand how many people have eating disorders and the number who get treated, it’s even more important to put yourself among the group of those who seek help. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating behavior, you can start by reaching out to your primary care physician or therapist. These healthcare professionals can listen to your concerns and help give you the right diagnosis or find the best possible treatment program

If you’re worried about talking with your doctor, ask a family member or trusted friend to go with you to the appointment. Added support could help you feel more comfortable speaking freely about your eating disorder and the life you want to lead. 

This person can also offer you ongoing support as you begin your journey in treatment and ongoing recovery. But the most important thing to remember is that treatment—and recovery—are always possible.


  1. Report: Economic Costs of Eating Disorders. Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  2. Graber, E. (2021, February 22). Eating Disorders Are on the Rise.American Society for Nutrition. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  3. Eating Disorder Statistics. South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  4. Statistics and Research on Eating Disorders. (2022). National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  5. Eating Disorder Statistics. (2021). National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  6. Eating Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  7. Becker, A. E., Franko, D. L., Speck, A., & Herzog, D. B. (2003). Ethnicity and differential access to care for eating disorder symptoms. The International journal of eating disorders; 33(2):205–212.
  8. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. (2022). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  9. Jenkins, Z. M., Mancuso, S. G., Phillipou, A., & Castle, D. J. (2021). What is OSFED? The predicament of classifying ‘other’ eating disorders.BJPsych open; 7(5):e147.

Last Update | 01 - 23 - 2023

Medical Disclaimer

Any information provided on the is for educational purposes only. The information on this site should not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with a medical professional if you are seeking medical advice, a diagnosis or any treatment solutions. is not liable for any issues associated with acting upon any information on this site.