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This article is part of the supplement: Women's Health Surveillance Report

Open Access Highly Accessed Report

Eating Disorders

Enza Gucciardi1*, Nalan Celasun2, Farah Ahmad3 and Donna E Stewart4

Author Affiliations

1 University Health Network Women's Health Program, University of Toronto, 657 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada

2 University Health Network Women's Health Program, University of Toronto, 657 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada

3 University Health Network Women's Health Program, University of Toronto, 657 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada

4 University Health Network Women's Health Program, University of Toronto, 657 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada

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BMC Women's Health 2004, 4(Suppl 1):S21  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-4-S1-S21

Published: 25 August 2004

Abstract

Health Issue

Eating disorders are an increasing public health problem among young women. Anorexia and bulimia may give rise to serious physical conditions such as hypothermia, hypotension, electrolyte imbalance, endocrine disorders, and kidney failure.

Key Issues

Eating disorders are primarily a problem among women. In Ontario in 1995, over 90% of reported hospitalized cases of anorexia and bulimia were women. In addition to eating disorders, preoccupation with weight, body image and self-concept disturbances, are more prevalent among women than men.

Women with eating disorders are also at risk for long-term psychological and social problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. For instance, in 2000, the prevalence of depression among women who were hospitalized with a diagnosis of anorexia (11.5%) or bulimia (15.4 %) was more than twice the rate of depression (5.7 %) among the general population of Canadian women. The highest incidence of depression was found in women aged 25 to 39 years for both anorexia and bulimia.

Data Gaps and Recommendations

Hospitalization data are the most recent and accessible information available. However, this data captures only the more severe cases. It does not include the individuals with eating disorders who may visit clinics or family doctors, or use hospital outpatient services or no services at all. Currently, there is no process for collecting this information systematically across Canada; consequently, the number of cases obtained from hospitalization data is underestimated. Other limitations noted during the literature review include the overuse of clinical samples, lack of longitudinal data, appropriate comparison groups, large samples, and ethnic group analysis.