Eating disorders in military and veteran men and women: A systematic review

Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Dec;48(8):1057-69. doi: 10.1002/eat.22454. Epub 2015 Aug 27.


Objective: Eating disorders (EDs) have serious consequences for psychological and physical health. They have high mortality rates and are among the most costly disorders to treat. However, EDs remain understudied in military and veteran populations. The aim of this review was to examine prevalence estimates and associated symptomatology of EDs among military and veteran men and women and to identify factors that may put these individuals at risk for the development of an ED for the purposes of improving detection, intervention, and treatment.

Method: A thorough literature review was conducted using the databases PsycINFO and PubMed. All articles with a focus on EDs in military/veteran samples were considered.

Results: Studies reveal high prevalence estimates of EDs among military/veteran men and women. Unique features of military life may increase the risk for development of an ED, including: military sexual trauma, strict weight and physical fitness requirements, and combat exposure. A history of trauma was common in individuals diagnosed with an ED in military and veteran samples.

Discussion: The high rates of EDs among military and veteran samples underscore the importance of further research, as well as the importance of screening and intervention efforts, in these understudied populations.

Keywords: eating disorders; men; military; veterans; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Veterans / psychology*