Eating disorders significantly more common in women


Women are more likely to experience eating disorders than men

Eating disorders occur much more frequently in women than in men. Although the number of men with eating disorders has increased significantly in recent years, women are affected around five times more often, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Leipzig.

According to the study director Prof. Anja Hilbert from the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) obesity diseases at the University of Leipzig, young women in particular are more often affected by eating disorders. The disorders in eating behavior include "for example bulimia nervosa (eating and vomiting disorder), binge eating or eating disorder and anorexia nervosa (anorexia)", the statement in the current press release from the University of Leipzig. It was also striking, according to the study leader, that obese (obese) women developed a disorder in eating behavior 11 times more often and obese men even 20 times more frequently than normal-weight women and men. "This significantly increased occurrence of disorders in eating behavior in obese people is remarkable," emphasized Anja Hilbert.

More than 2,500 study participants examined for possible eating disorders For their representative survey with 2,520 study participants (1,354 women, 1,166 men), Anja Hilbert, Martina de Zwaan and Elmar Brähler from the University of Leipzig used the internationally proven eating disorder questionnaire "Eating Disorder Examination-Questionaire" for the first time. This is intended to provide a clear statement on the specific symptoms and behaviors of an eating disorder, such as negative body and self-image, dissatisfaction with one's own appearance, self-induced vomiting, eating bouts, misuse of laxatives, excessive sporting activities or diets. The average age of the study participants was 50.5 years, the body mass index (BMI) of the subjects between 14.17 and 55.40. A little more than ten percent of those surveyed were obese, around 37 percent were overweight and about 52 percent were normal weight, according to the scientists on the basics of their study.

Young women particularly often with disorders in eating behavior When evaluating the data obtained, the Leipzig researchers found that significantly more women suffer from an eating disorder than men. 5.9 percent of women had disturbed eating behavior and only 1.5 percent of men. Since there are more women in Germany than men, the number of scientists shows that the number of women affected is around five times higher. However, compared to previous studies, the number of men with signs of disturbed eating behavior has increased significantly in recent years, report Anja Hilbert and colleagues. In principle, women and men experience eating disorders in all age groups, but especially at a young age, eating disorders are particularly common among women. "What is striking here is that disorders in eating behavior affect women and men of all ages, although it should be noted that the frequency decreases with age," explained the head of the Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology at the University of Leipzig, Professor Elmar Brähler the news agency "AFP". However, the most common occurrence of an eating disorder is between 55 and 64 years of age, whereas women are particularly affected up to the age of 24.

Relationship between overweight and eating disorders While the relationship between age and the likelihood of an eating disorder is relatively clear, as in previous studies, no correlation between the occurrence of eating disorders and the level of income or education could be found, wrote Anja Hilbert and colleagues. As mentioned above, however, the researchers found the relationship between being overweight and developing an eating disorder particularly striking. From this, it can be concluded that "overweight and obesity develop in connection with disorders in eating behavior and, for example, are associated with recurring eating attacks, nighttime eating, chronic overeating or a very negative body image," reports study leader Anja Hilbert. Since the eating disorders are usually coupled with increased mental or psychological pressure, the current study results also make it clear that obesity is not just a problem of overeating and lack of exercise, but also needs to be addressed more on the psychological level, the expert emphasized. The therapeutic measures for the treatment of obesity should therefore always be clarified whether the patient has a clinical eating disorder and whether additional psychotherapeutic treatment is necessary in addition to nutritional and exercise therapy, according to the Leipzig researchers. (fp)

Also read:
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More and more young people suffer from anorexia
Do diets promote eating disorders?
When is underweight?

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