Eating Disorder Statistics & Key Research | Eating Disorders Victoria
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Key research and statistics

Home ~ Eating disorders A-Z ~ Key research and statistics

This page provides key research and statistics on issues relating to eating disorders.

Please be aware that some of these statistics relate to confronting issues regarding eating disorder risk factors, suicide/mortality rates and mental illness susceptibility.

It is important to remember that these figures provide a statistical overview only – eating disorders are highly individual and varied and not all research will be applicable to all. 

Please always attribute the statistic to the original source, not Eating Disorders Victoria. 

Overview of eating disorders today

Eating disorders, when combined with disordered eating, are estimated to affect 16.3% of the Australian population (Hay et al., 2015).  

Latest data estimates that the number of people in Australia with an eating disorder aged over 5 years old is around 1.1 million, or approximately 4.45% of the population (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.27). This number indicates that 286,069 Victorians had an eating disorder in 2023. 

A concerning trend in age distribution shows that 27% of eating disorder cases in Australia are among those aged 10-19. This is has nearly doubled since 2012, highlighting a significant increase in eating disorders among younger age groups (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.10). 

According to the latest data, the most prevalent eating disorders in Australia were Unspecified Feeding and Eating Disorders and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders, affecting approximately 1.5% and 1.1% of the Australian population respectively. In contrast, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa each occurred in less than 0.5% of the general population (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.27).  

The lifetime prevalence for eating disorders is approximately 10.46% of the Australian population. This estimates that 2,754, 446 Australians had an eating disorder at any time within their life (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.30). This is an increase of 1.46% from conservative estimates in 2012 (NEDC, 2017). 

A recent review found that worldwide, lifetime prevalence of eating disorders was 8.4% (3.3-18.6%) for women and 2.2% (0.8-6.5%) for men. The results also showed that the prevalence has been increasing over time (Galmiche, 2019).  

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses.

Learn about the different types of eating disorders and signs and symptoms to look out for.

Learn more

Key diagnostic statistics

Binge Eating Disorder  
  • Based on Australian data, the lifetime prevalence of Binge Eating Disorder is the second highest of all eating disorders at 2.2% (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.30). 
  • Binge Eating Disorder has the latest average age of onset of all eating disorders estimated to be about 25 years old (Butterfly Foundation, 2012).  

Learn more about binge eating disorder 

Anorexia Nervosa 
  • The lifetime prevalence of Anorexia Nervosa in the Australian population is 1.8% (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.30). 
  • The average onset of Anorexia Nervosa is 16-17 years, although more and more younger children are becoming affected (Keski-Rahkonen at al., 2018).  

Learn more about anorexia nervosa 

Bulimia Nervosa  
  • The lifetime prevalence of Bulimia Nervosa in the Australian population is estimated to be 1.85% (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.30). 
  • The average age of onset of Bulimia Nervosa is 18 years (Volpe, 2016).  

Learn more about bulimia nervosa 

Eating disorders and gender

Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in young women (Yeo & Hughes, 2011).  

  • 67% of people with eating disorders in Australia are female and 33% male (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.28).  
  • Women and girls are more likely to experience all types of eating disorders than men and boys, where Binge Eating Disorder prevalence is almost double in women compared to men, and more than doubled for Bulimia Nervosa (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.28). 
  • Approximately 80-85% of individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa are female and 15-20% are male (Hay et al., 2008).   
  • Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours in boys and men may present differently than in girls and women, particularly with muscularity-oriented disordered eating (Nagata et al., 2020).  
  • Research suggests that transgender people, whose assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity, are more likely than cisgender people, whose assigned sex at birth matches their gender identity, to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or to engage in disordered eating (Watson et al., 2017).  
  • Research indicates that both transfeminine spectrum (TFS; those assigned male at birth and identifying as women or on the feminine spectrum) and transmasculine spectrum (TMS; those assigned female at birth and identifying as men or on the masculine spectrum) individuals had higher levels of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction than cisgender participants (Witcomb, 2015).   
  • An Australian study found that 23% of transgender young people have a current or previous diagnosis of an eating disorder (Strauss, 2017).  

Did you know?

Research indicates that over one third of people experiencing an eating disorder are men (Koreshe et al., 2023). Many experts believe that this number is likely to be even higher due to underreporting due to gender stereotyping and misdiagnosis. 

Eating disorders in men and boys

Eating disorders and age

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages and have been diagnosed in those younger than 5 years and older than 80 years (NEDC, 2017).  

  • Research shows that adolescents are at greatest risk, with the average age of onset for an eating disorder between 12 and 25 years (Volpe et al., 2016).  
  • The highest prevalence is found in 15 – 19 year olds, where up to 12% of adolescents in this age bracket had an eating disorder in 2023 (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024, p.29). 
  • 75% of people diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and 83% of people diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa are between 12 and 25 years (Volpe et al., 2016).  
  • 57% of contacts to the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline in 2018-2019 were from young people aged up to 25 years (Butterfly Foundation, 2020a). 

Eating disorders and LGBTIQA+ communities

People who are LGBTIQA+ are at a greater risk for disordered eating behaviours (Calzo et al, 2017). 

  • Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge eating than their heterosexual peers (Austin et al., 2009). 
  • A review from the United States found that lifetime prevalence for eating disorders is higher among sexual minority adults compared with cisgender heterosexual adults however, more detailed research is required (Nagata et al., 2020). 

Eating disorders and cultural and ethnic diversity

Eating disorders occur in all ethnicities, nationalities and cultural backgrounds (Schamberg et al., 2017). 

  • A 2019 review found that at any point in time (one-time prevalence) eating disorders occur all over the world, specifically, 4.6% in America, 2.2% in Europe and 3.5% in Asia (Galmiche et al., 2019). 
  • It is important to recognise unique cultural nuances and sensitivities, and varied sociocultural factors that influence an individual’s relationship with food, body image, and mental health. 

Eating disorders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Though research is limited, it has been estimated that eating disorders incidence is much higher in Indigenous populations with estimates that up to 27% are affected (Burt, et al., 2020).   

  • A recent research study found that 28% of Indigenous high school students have an eating disorder compared to 22% of other Australian teens (Burt et al., 2020).  
  • Binge eating disorders are as common, if not more common, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (Hay & Carriage, 2012).  
  • Research suggests that 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are extremely or very concerned about their body image (Hall et al., 2020).  

Eating disorders and co-occurring conditions

Eating disorders are frequently associated with other psychological and physical disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders (Hudson, 2007).  

  • Approximately 55- 97% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder have a mental illness comorbid condition (NEDC, 2017).  
  • Approximately 45-86% of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder have co-existing depression (O’Brien & Vincent, 2003).  
  • Approximately 64% of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder have co-existing anxiety disorder (Kaye et al., 2004).  
  • Approximately 58% of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder have co-existing personality disorder (NEDC, 2017).  
  • Among adolescents, approximately 88% of individuals with Bulimia Nervosa, 84% of individuals with Binge Eating Disorder, and 55% of individuals with Anorexia Nervosa have had one or more co-existing mental illness at some point in their lives (NEDC, 2017).   
  • Research indicates that anxiety disorder (especially social anxiety) can precede the onset of an eating disorder (Swinbourne & Touyz, 2007).  
  • Higher rates of disordered eating have been described in chronic health conditions that require dietary modification, including Celiac disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetes (Wabich et al., 2020).  
  • People with Diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) may be two times as likely to develop disordered eating and/or an eating disorder likely due to the nature of the illness including factors such as weight-gain, obsession with food and feelings of loss of control (Pereira and Alvarenga, 2007).  
  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are more prevalent in those diagnosed with an eating disorder though research is unclear if symptoms are resulting from or precede the eating disorder (Marie et al., 2019).  
  • Research findings suggest that patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis, may struggle with maladaptive attitudes toward eating making them at higher risk for developing disordered eating and/or an eating disorder however more research specific to these conditions is required (Wabich et al., 2020).  

Eating disorder mortality and suicidality

Eating disorders, along with substance use disorders, have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders (Chesney, Goodwin & Fazel, 2014).  

  • The mortality rate of those with Anorexia Nervosa is higher than other eating disorders (Fichter & Quadflieg, 2016).  
  • Cardiovascular complications is the leading cause of death among people with Anorexia Nervosa, followed by suicide (Smith, Zuromski & Dodd, 2018).  
  • The rate of mortality of individuals with Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder is lower than those with Anorexia Nervosa, but still significantly higher than the general population (NEDC, 2017).  
  • People with Anorexia Nervosa are more than 31 times more likely to attempt suicide and those with Bulimia Nervosa 7.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population (Preti, 2011).  
  • People with Anorexia Nervosa are 18 times more likely to die by suicide and those with Bulimia Nervosa are 7 times more likely to die by suicide relative to gender and aged matched comparison groups (Smith, Zuromski & Dodd, 2018).  
  • Suicidal behaviour is elevated in Binge Eating Disorder relative to the general population (Smith, Zuromski & Dodd, 2018).   
  • Suicide risk is higher when eating disorders occur with other psychological conditions (Smith, 2018).  

Eating disorder treatment and recovery

When skilled and knowledgeable health professionals deliver treatment, full recovery and good quality of life can be achieved for most people with eating disorders (Butterfly Foundation, 2016).  

  • It is estimated that 75% of people with an eating disorder don’t seek professional help (Hart, 2011).  
  • The reasons/ barriers for not accessing treatment include stigma, shame, denial, failure to perceive the severity of the illness, cost of treatment, low motivation to change, lack of encouragement and lack of knowledge about how to access help resources (Ali, 2017).   
  • The most effective treatment for eating disorder is person-centred care, tailored to suit the individual’s illness, situation and needs (Hay, 2014).  
  • The average time taken to recover from all types of eating disorders, after seeking treatment, is 1-6 years (Deloitte Access Economics, 2015). 

Learn more about treatment for eating disorders 

Accessing professional, evidence-based treatment for an eating disorder will give you the best possible recovery outcomes. 

Learn more

Eating disorders and economic impact

  • The economic cost has increased by 36% in the last decade, exceeding $66.9 billion in 2023 – this equates to a cost per person of $60,654 (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024). 
  • Health system costs (public and private) attributed to eating disorders in 2023 was $251.4 million. Importantly this does not account for all out-of-pocket health system expenses incurred by those impacted by eating disorders (Deloitte Access Economics, 2024). 
  • Anorexia nervosa accounts for 75% of the total health system costs, also accounting for the highest per person costs ($4,859) followed by BN ($163) (Deloitte Access Economics, 202

Body image, dieting and social media

  • Body image has been listed in the top four concerns for young Australians from 2009-2018 with 30% concerned about body image (Carlisle et al, 2018).  
  • Research shows that up to 80% of young teenage girls report a fear of becoming ‘fat’ (Kearney-Cooke & Tieger, 2015).  
  • Nearly 23% of Australian women report a self over evaluation of weight and shape – meaning they think they are larger than they are according to BMI (Mitchison, 2013).  
  • It has been reported that more than 55% of Australian girls and 57% boys aged 8 to 9 years are dissatisfied with their body t (Daragnova, 2013).   
  • Nearly half of Australian women and one third of Australian men are dissatisfied with their body (NEDC, 2017).  
  • Weight related teasing in children is associated with disordered eating, weight gain, binge eating, and extreme weight control measures (Golden, Schneider & Wood, 2016).  
  • Social media use has been linked to self-objectification, and using social media for merely 30 minutes, a day can change the way you view your own body (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2015).  
  • A study of teen girls reported that social media users were significantly more likely than non-social media users to have internalized a drive for thinness and to engage in body surveillance (Fardouly, 2015).   
  • Weight-loss dieting is a risk factor for the development of an eating disorders and. Dieting frequently precedes the onset of an eating disorder (Butryn & Wadden, 2005).  
  • Dietary restraint influences binge-eating behaviour (Andres & Saldana, 2014).  
  • High frequency dieting and early onset of dieting are associated with poorer physical and mental health, more disordered eating, extreme body dissatisfaction, and more frequent general health problems (Tucci et al., 2007).  

Learn more about dieting and eating disorders

Engaging in weight-loss dieting is the a key behavioural risk factor for developing an eating disorder.

Learn more


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