Did You Know...
Below are some useful facts about eating disorders in men including the prevalence, age of onset and the common risk factors.While we endeavor to ensure all information in this section is correct we cannot guarantee that it is entirely accurate or up to date, mainly due to the lack of research available on this subject. Feel free to contact us if you have found any information that is worth us including in this section.
Conflicting and poor quality data is one of the biggest problems in pinning down the full extent of eating disorders in America and indeed the world. According to Beat information, the Department of Health only shows how many individuals received inpatient treatment. This only captures a very small percentage of cases, since as much as 50 per cent of treatment is provided by private clinics and only the most severely ill will receive inpatient care. Health statistics usually refer to two types of data – Incidence: the number of new cases in any given period; and prevalence: the total number of new cases existing at any one time. Since eating disorders can endure for several years, prevalence figures are significantly higher than incidence figures. However those who don’t seek help and those who are seriously ill may not be in treatment services and won’t be in the statistics.
An eating disorder represents an extreme condition; therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there are tens of millions of American males who are obsessed with appearance, weight, food, and exercise, but do not fall into an official diagnosis for an eating disorder. These numbers suggest that the obsessions fueling eating disorders present a serious mental health issue facing our nation.
For an illness affecting so many males, it is astounding that so little information is available on males with eating disorders. The Center for Disease Control (C.D.C) reported that heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, claimed 696,947 lives in 2002. The American Cancer Society estimated that 564,830 Americans will die of cancer in 2006.
More males in the U.S. are affected by eating disorders than people dying annually of heart disease or cancer. If these leading causes of death, rightfully receive so much attention, then why is not an eating disorder epidemic affecting two million males given the same attention in research and prevention??
Age Of Onset
Males of any age can develop an eating disorder but they are most likely to begin between 14 and 25 – it is not unusual to have an eating disorder in middle age. This increased likelihood could have something to do with transitions.
Even though comparatively little research has been carried out on eating disorders in men, it does seem apparent that many of the commonly known risk factors are applicable. In particular the role of eating disorders being a coping mechanism, or an expression of, underlying emotional stress – this is applicable to males as much as it is females. This means any unresolved distress consequently presents a risk to developing eating problems.
A number of other risk factors for males developing eating disorders include:
Research also continues to investigate if biological factors could also play a role. Numerous studies have investigated how genetics and hormonal links are two frequently explored areas of biological explanations of eating disorders. One biological factor that definitely does seem to have a definite link to the development of eating disorders is personality type. Some personality types, including obsessive-compulsive personalities, are much more susceptible to developing eating disorders than any other personality types.
Below are a couple great resources for more information on eating disorders in males:
Men Get Eating Disorders, Too
National Association for Males With Eating Disorders, Inc.
References: C.D.C., "Deaths: Leading Causes for 2002" in National Vital Statistics Reports 2005, 53 p. 17. ;MGEDT.co.uk; N.A.M.E.D.
Image credit: Sander van der Wel on Flickr