The first US national survey of individuals with eating disorders shows that binge eating disorder is more prevalent than either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, also calls binge eating disorder a “major public health burden” because of its direct link to severe obesity and other serious health effects. “For the first time, we have nationally representative data on eating disorders. These data clearly show that binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder,” says lead author James I. Hudson, MD, ScD, director of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Research Program at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
The study, published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, is based on data obtained over two years in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), a survey of more than 9,000 people from across the United States about their mental health. Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, principal investigator of the NCS-R, and Eva Hiripi, of Harvard Medical School, and Harrison Pope Jr., MD, director of McLean Hospital’s Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, are co-authors of the paper.
The survey found that 0.9 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men reported having anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives, and that 1.5 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men reported having bulimia nervosa. By contrast, binge eating disorder, a condition in which individuals experience frequent uncontrolled eating binges without purging, afflicts 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men at some point in their lives.
“Everybody knows about anorexia and bulimia; however, binge eating disorder affects more people, is often associated with severe obesity and tends to persist longer,” Hudson says. “The consequences of binge eating disorder can be serious?including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It is imperative that health experts take notice of these findings.”