Eating Disorders and Males
Research indicates that up to 25% of people experiencing an eating disorder are male, with many experts believing this figure to under-represent the true number.
Many men go undiagnosed, either due to their own reluctance to seek help, stigma and a lack of awareness in the community, or because of a lack of understanding from health practitioners. Men are more likely to experience binge eating disorder than other eating disorders, but the prevalence of men with anorexia or bulimia is also increasing. While female onset is often in adolescent years, men tend to develop eating disorders at an older age. The average age of onset in males is 17-26 compared to 15-18 in females.1
Risk factors for males
The general risk factors for eating disorders are the same for males and females. Low self esteem, perfectionism, weight/body related teasing or bullying are all known risk factors. Recent research is also indicating a genetic link which may predispose people to the development of an eating disorder.
- Dieting is a less common risk factor for men
- Men whose job requires a particular body “look” such as models, actors or entertainers may have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than the general population.
- Male athletes are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, especially those in sports which require a particular physique such as gymnasts, swimmers, jockeys, weightlifters, wrestlers and body builders. Athletes with eating disorders may partake in unhealthy and potentially dangerous activities such as restrictive dieting, extreme exercise regimes and/or anabolic steroid abuse.
- Studies suggest that 15% of gay or bisexual men have struggled with eating disorders, and around 42% of men with an eating disorder identify as gay or bisexual.2
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible for everyone. Early intervention is the key to a successful recovery, so it is important to seek help as early as possible. The recovery journey is unique for everyone, and for some it can take only a few months, but for others it can take many years.
Unfortunately many men with an eating disorder delay or avoid seeking help. This can be due to a number of reasons, for example: the stigma of having what many people regard incorrectly as a “female illness”, general resistance to seeking medical help, and an unwillingness to seem “weak”. In addition, eating disorders in men are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed by medical practitioners.
It is important to note that the treatment services available (such as psychotherapy, nutritional advice and support groups) are effective in treating both men and women, and the prospect of recovery is equally as possible.
1. B.J. Blinder, "Anorexia in males", 2001. <http://www.ltspeed.com/bjblinder/anmales.htm>
2. Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Gay Men Have Higher Prevalence Of Eating Disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070413160923.htm>.
- Last revision date: Friday, 19 June 2015 11:07