Eating disorders in teens are common, affecting over a half-million teens in the U.S. These often occur with other psychiatric problems including suicidal thoughts, and don't just affect girls, according to a new study.
'Eating disorders are a serious public health problem," says researcher Kathleen Merikangas, PhD, senior investigator at the intramural research program at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Teens surveyed for the study were asked if they had ever had an eating disorder and if they had had one within the past 12 months. Included were anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
For lifetime prevalence, the researchers found:
For anorexia, about 0.3% of the teens were affected (55,000). For bulimia, about 0.9% (170,000).
For binge eating, about 1.6% (300,000).
When the researchers looked at 12-month prevalence, they found lower rates, with 0.2% of teens affected with anorexia, 0.6% for bulimia and 0.9% for binge eating.
Among the surprises of the study, Merikangas said ''we didn't have a big sex difference for anorexia." About 0.3% of both boys and girls were affected for lifetime prevalence.
For bulimia and binge eating, many more girls than boys were affected, researchers found.
Most with an eating disorder also had some other mental health problem, with 55% to 88% of those with an eating disorder also reporting such problems as anxiety, depression, or a behavioral disorder.
The most surprising, to Merikangas, was that ''one-third of those with bulimia had actually attempted suicide." About 15% of those with binge eating had and about 8% of those with anorexia had attempted suicide.