Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2006 Volume 17, Number 6
©2006 Gürze Books
A recent poll measuring awareness and prevalence of eating disorders on college campuses across the nation produced a startling statistic: Nearly 20% of students who responded believe that at some point in their lives they had had an eating disorder. (Available research has set lifetime prevalence rates of eating disorders between .05% to 4%.) And, 75% of those who said they had or still have an eating disorder never received any treatment.
The poll was conducted by Global Market Insite for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Using online data collection, NEDA polled 1,002 students on private and public campuses, asking about their general knowledge about eating disorders, how many of their peers they know are dealing with eating disorders, the causes, and actions that they may have taken to help those suffering with eating disorders.
More than half of those polled (55%) knew at least one person who struggled with an eating disorder and 57% said they took steps to speak with them about the problem. Eighty percent reported dieting and 75% have dieted and avoided or skipped meals. Forty-four percent of the students knew someone who compulsively exercises more than two hours at a time more days of the week than not, or who purge by vomiting (38.5%) or use laxatives to lose weight (26%).
When asked what they believed caused eating disorders, 57.3% said cultural pressure to be thin was the main cause. Other factors cited were: stress from their family and from life in general (40.3% and 40.2%, respectively), and personal choice (39%). More than 35% believed the disorders were due to mental illness; 17.9% thought trauma was the cause, and 17.6% felt genetics played a developmental role.