Although anorexia is most commonly exhibited by teens and young women, anyone can suffer from this disease. As studies of the epidemiology of anorexia nervosa show, people of any race, age or gender can be afflicted.
Anorexia in Women
Approximately 8 million people suffer from eating disorders in the United States. Of those affected, 7 million are women. An estimated one in 200 American women suffer from anorexia (South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), 2006).
The average age of onset for women is 17.3 years, with 95 percent of all surveyed falling between the ages of 15.3 and 19.3 (American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP), 2007).
Among adolescents, anorexia is the third most prevalent chronic illness. A survey of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 revealed that 50 percent viewed themselves as overweight, and 80 percent of 13 year old girls were making an active effort to lose weight, or had done so in the past. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of eating disorders occur in young women between the ages of 12 and 25 (SCDMH, 2006).
Anorexia in Men
While an estimated 10 to 15 percent of all anorexia cases occur in males, these statistics are not thought to be indicative of the real number of cases in the population. One reason for this is that men are often undiagnosed, as admitting to problems with body image is not as acceptable in men as it seems to be in women.
The number of reported cases of male anorexia is expected to increase significantly in future years. One reason is the growing awareness of the condition in men. Another reason is the increase of social pressure for men to conform to the standards of appearance that women have been struggling with for centuries.
Impact of Anorexia by Race
Eating disorders affect people of all races indiscriminately. Cultural factors are more likely to influence the numbers than racial statistics.
For example, 74 percent of American Indian girls reported extreme dieting and binge/purge behavior.