Athletes and eating disorders: the National Collegiate Athletic Association study

Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Sep;26(2):179-88. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199909)26:2<179::aid-eat7>;2-z.


Objective: To present findings from a collaborative study with the National College Athletic Association regarding the prevalence of disordered eating among student athletes.

Method: 1,445 student athletes from 11 Division 1 schools were surveyed using a 133-item questionnaire.

Results: Results indicated that 1.1% of the females met DSM-IV criteria for bulimia nervosa versus 0% for males. None of the student athletes met DSM-IV criteria for anorexia nervosa. 9.2% of the females were identified as having clinically significant problems with bulimia versus .01% of the males. 2.85% of the females were identified as having a clinically significant problem with anorexia nervosa versus 0% for males. 10.85% of the females reported binge eating on a weekly or greater basis versus 13.02% of the males 5.52% of the females reported purging behavior (vomiting, laxatives, diuretics) on a weekly or greater basis versus 2.04% for the males.

Discussion: Results from the current investigation are more conservative than previous studies of student athletes, but comparable to another large study of elite Norwegian athletes. Reasons for these differences are discussed. Clearly female athletes report more difficulty with disordered eating than male athletes. Some specific risk factors for female athletes are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Adult
  • Amenorrhea / diagnosis
  • Amenorrhea / psychology
  • Association
  • Body Mass Index
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sports*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires