More than 28 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Individuals of all ages, race/ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, body shapes, weights, socioeconomic statuses, and levels of physical activity can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are more likely to appear in teen years or young adulthood, and cases have increased among children, older adults, and military service members.
Eating disorders affect individuals from diverse backgrounds. Research shows that although Black women have similar or higher rates of binge eating as White women, Black individuals have been underrepresented in clinical trials. Individuals with higher body weight may benefit from having healthcare professionals who specialize in obesity and eating disorders collaborating on a treatment plan, yet their care is not often integrated which may hinder successful interventions. For many individuals who are LGBTQI+, bullying and intimidation heighten the need to seek help from health care providers. Sexual minority women often report higher BMI, body dissatisfaction, and eating pathology. Compared to non-athletes, athletes are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders, with female collegiate athletes being identified as higher risk than male athletes. Across demographics, eating disorders often go undertreated or untreated.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, eating disorder-related hospital admissions among adolescents and young adults have increased has contributed to higher stress and anxiety, two risk factors for eating disorders. daily routines has also facilitated unhealthy eating patterns. Increased exposure to social media has heightened body dissatisfaction. As a result, COVID-19 has exacerbated the rates of eating disorders.
As physicians with expertise in adolescent medicine, we are committed to improving diagnosis and treatment for anyone with these conditions. Untreated eating disorders can cause serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, tooth loss, brain damage, sleep apnea, and bone loss. They also can increase anxiety, depression, and risk of suicide. With detection and intervention, full recovery is possible.
At HHS, we are dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of all Americans. Our work to improve health outcomes for those with eating disorders are outlined in three main commitments.
We’re committed to improving care.
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we will host a virtual summit with experts in the field to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to eating disorders. The meeting will highlight how health care providers have adapted their practices to improve screening and treatment. To view this meeting, please visit: https://www.hhs.gov/live/live-2/index.html#7420
Through the SAMHSA-funded National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, we are expanding health care provider training, so that patients with eating disorders receive the diagnosis and care they need.
At NIH, the National Institutes of Mental Health is currently conducting or funding more than 65 clinical studies to help better understand the biological, genetic, and social factors that contribute to eating disorders.
We’re committed to reducing stigma.
HHS is joining the National Alliance for Eating Disorders’ Lisa Murano, Ginger Zee, and Elisa Donovan in an Instagram Live event on February 24th at 12 p.m. ET. Join us to hear personal experiences and learn how we all can support individuals with eating disorders. For more details, visit HHS’ Instagram account at: https://www.instagram.com/hhsgov
We’re committed to expanding prevention awareness.
We are providing tools and resources to help anyone recognize symptoms and support individuals who demonstrate signs of an eating disorder.
If you or someone you love is at risk of an eating disorder or is in crisis, help is available at: