This number can come as a shock. Few people realize how many people they know are struggling with the disorder, however, 64 percent of those living with bulimia fall into a normal weight range so it is an easy mental health disorder to keep hidden from others.
We live in a media-driven culture where the average model ranges from 5’9” to 6’ in height and 110 to 118 pounds in weight compared to the average American woman who measures 5’4” tall and 142 pounds. It is no wonder a false sense of “normal” has been created. We are bombarded with unrealistic body images every day, so it is not surprising that self-conscious teens are the ones most likely to develop bulimia as they attempt to meet these unrealistic standards. The incidence of the onset of bulimia is at its highest in the late teen and early adulthood years. In fact, three percent of women suffer from eating disorders, and six percent of teen girls engage in unhealthy food-related behavior.
In recent years, a frightening new pattern has occurred, as children as young as five years old have been reported to have bulimia. The occurrence of bulimia is happening in younger and younger age groups, and eating disorders have the highest death rates of any mental illness. On average, patients living with bulimia binge eat 11 times a week, causing devastating health and emotional consequences. These facts all point to the increased need for education and treatment for those struggling with bulimic behavior.
Bulimic Behavior Statistics: Risk Factors
Bulimia has been diagnosed in children as young as kindergarten age and is rising in the elderly population due to the fact that many patients do not receive a diagnosis or treatment earlier in life. Nevertheless, 95 percent of those with bulimia range in age from 12 to 25, and 90 percent are female. In a recent survey of sixth-grade girls, almost three-quarters stated that they first started worrying about their weight between the ages of nine and 11 years old. Another study found that 44 percent of junior high girls who read magazines about dieting were twice as likely to develop anorexic behavior and three times as likely to experiment with self-induced vomiting.
Dieting is a definite risk factor for the development of bulimia as well. Those who diet regularly are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who do not. In addition, bulimia develops 12 times more often in young girls who diet repeatedly. Furthermore, kids who have a family member who diets frequently are more likely to develop bulimia and other unhealthy behavior related to food.
Many people believe that Caucasians are the only ethnic group that has an issue with bulimia. Current research shows this to be a false stereotype. The proportion of minorities with bulimia and other disordered eating habits are similar to those of the white population. Students who enter America from other countries are more likely to develop bulimia if they adopt Western ideas about diet and beauty. Also, it has been reported that 74 percent of American Indian women have reported dieting and purging at some time in their life. The United States is not the only place in the world bulimia has become a major health concern. In fact, in Japan, eating disorders are the leading mental disorder confronting women today.