Study: More Than Half a Million Teens Have an Eating Disorder

In the biggest government study of its kind, researchers found that more than half a million American teenagers have an eating disorder – and many are not being treated for the problem.

The data, which was released online Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, includes interviews from more than 10,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 from across the country.

The most popular eating disorder was binge eating, which affects more than 1.5 percent of the teens studied. Less than 1 percent had bulimia, and 0.3 percent suffered from anorexia. Overall, 3 percent had a lifetime prevalence of one of the disorders. An additional 3 percent of teens in question had some symptoms, but not full-fledged eating disorders.

Incidentally, more than half of the affected teens had some other sort of mental disorder such as depression or anxiety. Many teens said they had had suicidal thoughts, or even attempted it.
The study, which is also based on parental interviews, indicated rates are higher than ever. Co-author and researcher Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health said the results of this study underscore the seriousness of eating disorders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.