CHICAGO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- A survey of college-age students conducted by researchers at University of Michigan (UM) found great disparities in who was getting both diagnosis and treatment for eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder and overconsumption.
In analysis of more than 1,700 young people from 12 colleges and universities across the United States that participated in the Healthy Bodies Study, the researchers found that females were almost five times more likely to get diagnosed than males; white students were nearly two times more likely to get diagnosed than students of color; and underweight students were more than six times more likely to get diagnosed than those with a health body weight. Students with overweight or obesity were about half as likely to get diagnosed.
In terms of treatment, females were almost 1.5 times more likely to get help compared with males, and affluent students were nearly two times more likely to get treatment compared to non-affluent.
The study was published on the UM website on Monday.
Underweight students were almost six times more likely to get treatment compared to students with a healthy body weight.
It is estimated that nearly 5 percent of the population in the United States has an eating disorder at some point in their lives, yet only one third of individuals receive treatment.
Among the college students in the current study with an eating disorder, nearly 31 percent perceived a need for treatment, 10.5 percent had received a diagnosis and nearly 14 percent had received treatment in the past year.
"Most people with an eating disorder never get diagnosed and never get treatment, even though successful treatments that can reduce suffering, health consequences and cost are available," said Kendrin Sonneville, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at UM School of Public Health.
"Most media coverage about eating disorders has focused on cases of anorexia among thin, white female celebrities. Many individuals with eating disorders do not recognize themselves in these stereotyped portrayals of eating disorders in the media and may not recognize the need for treatment," said Sonneville.
The researchers found that anorexia was much more likely to get diagnosed (73 percent) compared to individuals with binge eating disorder (7 percent).
This disparity could perpetuate stereotypes because anorexia will be the most common diagnosis encountered, even though it is the least common eating disorder.
Universal screening and prevention, led by clinicians, could help reduce these disparities, Sonneville said.