More than half a million US teens have had an eating disorder but few have sought treatment for the problem, government research has shown.
The study is billed as the largest and most comprehensive analysis of eating disorders. It involved nationally representative data on more than 10,000 teens aged 13 to 18.
Binge-eating disorder was the most common, affecting more than 1.5% of kids studied. Just under 1% had experienced bulimia, and 0.3% had had anorexia. Overall, 3% had a lifetime prevalence of one of the disorders. Another 3% of kids questioned had troubling symptoms but not full-fledged eating disorders.
The study was released online in Archives of General Psychiatry.
The rates are slightly higher than in other studies. And the study is based on kids and parents interviewed over two years ending in 2004. But co-author and researcher Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health says similar rates likely exist today.
More than half the affected teens had depression, anxiety or some other mental disorder. Sizeable numbers also reported suicide thoughts or attempts.
Merikangas said the results underscore the seriousness of eating disorders.
(Sapa, Lindsey Tanner, March 2011)