Changing Trends in Eating Disorder Demographics

One myth that still persists is that eating disorders (EDs) are diseases of affluent Caucasian women. While this may have some basis in past demographics, current prevalence data suggests otherwise. EDs were first described back in the 1600’s but didn’t become commonly known until the late 1970’s. As society has become increasingly aware of the problem, the focus has been on females—mostly Caucasian females.

Currently NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) reports that approximately 10% of people with eating disorders in contact with the mental health professionals are male. While there has been an increase in the number of males diagnosed with an eating disorder, they are still a notably smaller group than their female counterparts. Understanding the uniquely male-related issues when identifying and treating EDs is a new area of study.

The myth that EDs are the indulgence of affluent women is perhaps more a reflection on where our media places its focus as well as the continued misunderstandings of what eating disorders are. In actuality these disorders cross economic, racial, as well as gender lines. Yet, in the USA, Caucasian females are the main group of individuals that have been identified as having an eating disorder.

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