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Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;25(4):212-23. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1002-0829.2013.04.003.

Prevalence of eating disorders in the general population: a systematic review.

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Shanghai Yangpu District Central Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


in English, Chinese


The estimated prevalence of eating disorders reported in community surveys from different parts of the world varies widely but there has been no systematic attempt to identify the reasons for these differences.


Use meta-analysis methods to pool data from community surveys about the prevalence of eating disorders in different locations and to identify the factors that are associated with the reported prevalence of eating disorders.


Based on pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria, studies were identified from the following databases: PubMed/Medline, PsycINFO, ISI web of knowledge, Ovid, Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure, Chongqing VIP database for Chinese Technical Periodicals, WANFANG DATA, and Chinese Biological Literature Service System. Statistical analysis was conducted using R software.


Among the 9315 unduplicated reports reviewed (one-fourth of which were published in Chinese) only 15 - with a pooled sample size of 72,961 individuals - met the inclusion criteria for the analysis. None of the included studies were from China and only one Asian country (South Korea) was included in the analysis. The estimated lifetime prevalence, 12-month prevalence, and 4-week prevalence of any eating disorder was 1.01% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54-1.89), 0.37% (CI, 0.22-0.63), and 0.21% (CI, 0.15-0.28), respectively. Estimated lifetime prevalence of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder was 0.21% (CI, 0.11-0.38), 0.81% (CI, 0.59-1.09), and 2.22% (CI, 1.78-2.76), respectively. The estimated female-male ratio for lifetime prevalence of any eating disorder was 4.2. The lifetime prevalence of any eating disorder reported from studies conducted in Western countries was 6.1-fold greater than that reported in a single study from South Korea. Over time there has been a non-significant increase in reported prevalence of any eating disorder and a significant increase in reported prevalence of anorexia nervosa.


Eating disorders are common in the general population, more common in women than men, and more common in Western countries than in Asian countries.The reported prevalence is increasing over time, but this may be due to changes in diagnostic criteria. There are serious limitations in the available epidemiological data, primarily differences in the conditions included among eating disorders and the lack of acceptable epidemiological studies from low- and middle-income countries (including China).

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