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The epidemiology of eating disorders: genetic, environmental, and societal factors

Authors Mitchison D, Hay P

Received 16 November 2013

Accepted for publication 4 December 2013

Published 17 February 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 89—97

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CLEP.S40841

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2


Deborah Mitchison,1 Phillipa J Hay2,3

1School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 2Centre for Health Research, School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 3School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville City, QLD, Australia

Background: The aim of this review was to summarize the literature to date regarding the sociodemographic, environmental, and genetic correlates of eating disorders (EDs) in adults.
Method: A keyword search was entered into Scopus (SciVerse, Elsevier) to identify relevant articles published in English up until June 2013. Articles were assessed against a range of a priori inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Results: A total of 149 full-text articles were found to be eligible for the review and included 86 articles with data on sociodemographic correlates, 57 on environmental correlates, and 13 on genetic correlates. Female sex, younger age, sexual and physical abuse, participation in esthetic or weight-oriented sports, and heritability were found to be most consistently associated with higher ED prevalence and incidence. Conversely, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, and urbanicity did not appear to have strong associations with ED epidemiology.
Conclusion: More community-based research, with an equal representation of males, needs to be conducted to confirm the current findings and provide evidence for emerging factors that may be related to EDs.

Keywords: demographic, environment, abuse, prevalence, socioeconomic status, heritability

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