While women are more commonly affected by eating disorders, millions of men and boys battle all forms of the illness. Prevalence figures for males with eating disorders (ED) are somewhat elusive.
In the past, ED have been characterized as “women’s problems” and men have been stigmatized from coming forward or have been unaware that they could have an ED. Studies have shown an increase in the numbers, although it is uncertain whether more males actually have eating disorders now or are becoming more aware of the gender-neutral nature of ED.
The most widely-quoted study estimates that males have a lifetime prevalence of .3% for anorexia nervosa (AN), .5% for bulimia nervosa (BN) and 2% for binge eating disorder (BED). These figures correspond to males representing 25% of individuals with AN and BN and 36% of those with BED. They are based on DSM-IV criteria (Hudson, 2007).
Research statistics from the National Eating Disorders Association show:
- In a study of 1,383 adolescents, the prevalence of any DSM-5 ED in males was reported to be 1.2% at 14 years, 2.6% at 17 years, and 2.9% at 20 years (Allen, 2013).
- A study of 2,822 students on a large university campus found that 3.6% of males had positive screens for ED. The female-to-male ratio was 3-to-1 (Eisenburg, 2011).
- In looking at male sexuality and eating disorders, higher percentage of gay (15%) than heterosexual males (5%) had diagnoses of ED (Feldman, 2007), but when these percentages are applied to population figures, the majority of males with ED are heterosexual.
- Subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females (Mond, 2014).
- Various studies suggest that risk of mortality for males with ED is higher than it is for females (Raevuoni, 2014)
- Men with eating disorders often suffer from comorbid conditions such as depression, excessive exercise, substance disorders, and anxiety (Weltzin, 2014).
A gender-sensitive approach with recognition of different needs and dynamics for males is critical in effective treatment. Our expert team of psychiatrists have the experience and expertise to assist any individual – female or male – suffering from an eating disorder. Contact us today to set up an appointment.