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The Prevalence and Correlates of Binge Eating Disorder in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys

      Background

      Little population-based data exist outside the United States on the epidemiology of binge eating disorder (BED). Cross-national BED data are presented here and compared with bulimia nervosa (BN) data in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Surveys.

      Methods

      Community surveys with 24,124 respondents (ages 18+) across 14 mostly upper-middle and high-income countries assessed lifetime and 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Physical disorders were assessed with a chronic conditions checklist.

      Results

      Country-specific lifetime prevalence estimates are consistently (median; interquartile range) higher for BED (1.4%; .8–1.9%) than BN (.8%; .4–1.0%). Median age of onset is in the late teens to early 20s for both disorders but slightly younger for BN. Persistence is slightly higher for BN (6.5 years; 2.2–15.4) than BED (4.3 years; 1.0–11.7). Lifetime risk of both disorders is elevated for women and recent cohorts. Retrospective reports suggest that comorbid DSM-IV disorders predict subsequent onset of BN somewhat more strongly than BED and that BN predicts subsequent comorbid disorders somewhat more strongly than does BED. Significant comorbidities with physical conditions are due almost entirely to BN and to a somewhat lesser degree BED predicting subsequent onset of these conditions. Role impairments are similar for BN and BED. Fewer than half of lifetime BN or BED cases receive treatment.

      Conclusions

      Binge eating disorder represents a public health problem at least equal to BN. Low treatment rates highlight the clinical importance of questioning patients about eating problems even when not included among presenting complaints.

      Key Words

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