Eating disorders have risen steadily in children and teens over the last few decades, with some of the sharpest increases occurring in boys and minority youths, according to a new report.
An analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that hospitalizations for eating disorders jumped by 119 percent between 1999 and 2006 for kids younger than 12.
At the same time as severe cases of anorexia and bulimia have risen, so too have "partial-syndrome" eating disorders -- young people who have some, but not all, of the symptoms of an eating disorder. Athletes, including gymnasts and wrestlers, and performers, including dancers and models, may be particularly at risk, according to the report.
"We are seeing a lot more eating disorders than we used to and we are seeing it in people we didn't associate with eating disorders in the past -- a lot of boys, little kids, people of color and those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds," said report author Dr. David Rosen, a professor of pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry at University of Michigan. "The stereotype [patient] is of an affluent white girl of a certain age. We wanted people to understand eating disorders are equal-opportunity disorders."
The report is published in the December issue of Pediatrics.
While an estimated 0.5 percent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia and about 1 to 2 percent have bulimia, experts estimate that between 0.8 to 14 percent of Americans generally have at least some of the physical and psychological symptoms of an eating disorder, according to the report.
Boys now represent about 5 to 10 percent of those with eating disorders, although some research suggests that number may be even higher, said Lisa Lilenfeld, incoming president of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy and Action in Washington, D.C.