Eating disorder behaviors are increasing: findings from two sequential community surveys in South Australia

PLoS One. 2008 Feb 6;3(2):e1541. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001541.


Background: Evidence for an increase in the prevalence of eating disorders is inconsistent. Our aim was to determine change in the population point prevalence of eating disorder behaviors over a 10-year period.

Methodology/principal findings: Eating disorder behaviors were assessed in consecutive general population surveys of men and women conducted in 1995 (n = 3001, 72% respondents) and 2005 (n = 3047, 63.1% respondents). Participants were randomly sampled from households in rural and metropolitan South Australia. There was a significant (all p<0.01) and over two-fold increase in the prevalence of binge eating, purging (self-induced vomiting and/or laxative or diuretic misuse) and strict dieting or fasting for weight or shape control among both genders. The most common diagnosis in 2005 was either binge eating disorder or other "eating disorders not otherwise specified" (EDNOS; n = 119, 4.2%).

Conclusions/significance: In this population sample the point prevalence of eating disorder behaviors increased over the past decade. Cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, as currently defined, remain uncommon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Fasting
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics