Eating Disorders: Differences in Young Men and Women

ATLANTA – While eating disorders are more common among women, men with eating disorders are more likely to experience concurrent depression and are less likely to access mental health services, according to a new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

Eating disorders are the third most common diagnosis in adolescent females; they are far less prevalent in young males. Limited evidence has previously suggested some sex-specific differences in patient history and presentation. The study assessed differences in a sample of adolescents admitted for treatment of eating disorders.

Researcher Samuel Ridout, M.D., with Brown University School of Medicine, reviewed charts of adolescent patients (127 women and 21 men) hospitalized for treatment of their eating disorders between October 2010 and April 2014. The individuals had anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or eating disorder not otherwise specified as primary or secondary diagnoses.

Significantly more males than females had depression along with the eating disorder (67 percent compared to 43 percent). The males had significantly lower likelihood of prior psychiatric hospitalizations (10 percent of males compared to 21 percent of females). Males and females did not differ in their history of suicidal ideation or attempts.

The researchers conclude that while depression is an important coexisting condition in male and female patients with eating disorders, it may be more prevalent in males than previously thought and males are less likely to engage with psychiatric resources.

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose 36,500 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.

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