Study: One in 10 Teen Girls Has an Eating Disorder

By Chrisanne Grise 05/21/13

A UK study finds eating disorder diagnoses are rapidly increasing among teens.

Are teens under too much pressure?
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Young people—both girls and boys—are developing eating disorders in increasing numbers, according to a UK study published in BMJ Open. Based on the numbers of patients attending general practitioners, medical experts found that one in ten teenage girls has an eating disorder. The highest rates of new cases were among girls ages 15 to 19 and boys ages ten to 14. The data also showed that there was a 13% jump in new cases diagnosed each year between 2003 and 2009. “Modern society exerts pressure for children and young people to be perfect, to look perfect and be high achievers,” says study researcher Dr. Nadia Micali of the Institute of Child Health, University College in London. “Boys are starting to suffer as girls did in the past. It’s a mix of genes and environment, nature and nurture, but the reality is we don’t know enough about what causes eating disorders yet.” While diagnoses of anorexia and bulimia have stayed mostly consistent, there has been a “significant increase” in other eating disorders, including binge eating. Micali says that doctors are becoming more aware of eating disorders, which could partially explain the increase in diagnoses, but she adds: “I suspect these figures are an under-estimate, with many not going to their GP with symptoms that are just as bad.” Studies done in the US have found similar data, with research suggesting that 80% of 10-year-old girls have already dieted at least once, and 70% of 6- to 12-year-old girls want to lose weight. The rate of development of new eating disorder cases in the US has been increasing steadily since 1950.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.