Who is at risk?
Eating disorders can afflict almost anyone, but certain groups of people, such as adolescent and young adult women, are at higher risk than others. About 85% to 90% of anorexia and bulimia nervosa cases occur in women, and an estimated 60% of binge eating disorder cases occur in women.
These disorders tend to arise in women during adolescence or the twenties, but eating disorders can affect people later in life, and can even affect young children. In the past, these disorders have been stereotyped as affecting only white or affluent women; unfortunately, eating disorders occur across all ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes.
The cause of eating disorders is unknown, although it is likely that a variety of factors - biological, psychological, and sociocultural - impact their development. More research is needed to better understand the risk factors for developing an eating disorder, but some of the major risk factors that predispose individuals to these illnesses include the following:
- female gender
- perfectionist, rigid, risk-avoiding personality traits
- personal or family history of
- eating disorders
- substance abuse
- personal history of physical or sexual abuse, teasing, and harassment
- elite performance in competitive sports in which body shape and size are a factor (male and female)
This page was updated September 16, 2011.