What everyone needs to know about Disordered Eating/Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are serious mental illnesses that can be treated and overcome with the proper treatment and a person-centred approach to recovery. In Canada, approximately 1 million residents1 (that’s just about 3% of the population) meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. This includes diagnoses such as Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Binge Eating Disorder (BED), and others. While this number is staggering on its own, it is only made more daunting by the fact that majority of people with eating disorders do not seek or receive treatment.1, Thus,  going undiagnosed and undocumented. 

In fact, the National Eating Disorder Association reports that over 70% of people who struggle with an eating disorder do NOT seek support, and this is due largely to stigma2

It is well known that a leading cause of premature death in Canada is mental illness3  and of this population eating disorders have the highest overall mortality rate. It is estimated that the mortality rate of eating disorders is between 10-15%4.  With cardiac disease being the leading cause of death, followed by suicide5. A staggering statistic from the Canadian Eating Disorder Strategy1 reads:

 “20% of people with AN and 25-35% of people with BN may attempt suicide in their lifetime. For females aged 15-24 years old, the mortality rate associated with AN is 12 times greater than that of ALL other causes of death combined4,6.

This is deeply concerning and warrants a community of people with a deeper understanding and awareness of eating disorders  to use their ‘mega phone’ to advocate for those that cannot. Ignoring these statistics is detrimental to our common humanity. 

Eating Disorders/Disordered Eating are an insidiousness illness that is NOT selective of status, colour or gender. The following are some staggering statistics on eating disorders that rub against the grain of the typical “eating disorder stereotype” (i.e., white, thin, female):

1. Males Develop Eating Disorders

“Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part because they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders”7

2. Sports and Athletics Taken to the Extreme 

“One study found that 35% of female and 10% of male college athletes were at risk for anorexia nervosa and 58% of female and 38% of male college athletes were at risk for bulimia nervosa.”8

3. Binge Eating Disorder (BED), a Serious Eating Disorder that DEMANDS Attention

“A 2007 study asked 9,282 English-speaking Americans about a variety of mental health conditions, including eating disorders. The results, published in Biological Psychiatry, found that 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had binge eating disorder during their life.

 This makes BED more than three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. BED is also more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.”9

4. Minorities are Disproportionately Affected by Eating Disorders 

“Transgender youth are 4 times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder and 2 times as likely to engage in purging”10

“Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging”11

If you would like to know more about disordered eating/eating disorders, please feel free to contact Healthy Essentials Clinic at https://www.healthyessentialsclinic.ca/ or email admin@healthyessentialsclinic.com

Or call 250 766-3433 or 1 877 568 7230. One of our specialists would be happy to speak with you.


1Canadian Eating Disorders Alliance (2019). The Canadian Eating Disorders Strategy: 2019 – 2029. 

2Eating Recovery Centre. (2020). EATING DISORDER STATISTICS – NEDA WEEK 2020. Received from: https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/blog/advocacy/Eating-Disorder-Statistics-NEDA-Week-2020

3Statistics Canada. (2018). Death, causes of death and life expectancy, 2016, Table 13-10-0801-01 (formerly CANSIM 102-0564).

4Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A. J., Wales, J., & Nielsen, S. (2011). Mortality rates in patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders: A meta-analysis of 36 studies. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68, 724-731.

5Berkman, N. D., Lohr, K. N., & Bulik, C. M. (2007). Outcomes of eating disorders: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40, 293-309.

6Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H.W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14, 406-414.

7 Mond, J. M., Mitchison, D., & Hay, P. (2014). Prevalence and implications of eating disordered behavior in men. Current Findings on Males with Eating Disorders. Philadelphia, PA: Routledge. 

8The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. (2003). Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia University; New York.

 9Hudson, J.I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G. Jr., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348-58. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040.

10Diemer, E. W., Grant, J. D., Munn-Chernoff, M. A., Patterson, D. A., & Duncan, A. E. (2015). Gender identity, sexual orientation, and eating-related pathology in a national sample of college students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(2), 144-149. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.003

11Goeree, M. S., Ham, J. C., & Iorio, D. Race, social class, and Bulimia Nervosa. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5823, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1877636