The Spectrum of Eating Disorders in Young Women: A Prevalence Study in a General Population Sample

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The present study aims to evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of the whole spectrum of eating disorders (ED) in a representative sample of young women.


All female subjects aged 18 to 25 who resided in two areas (urban and suburban) of a large city were involved in the study. All women (N = 934) underwent a clinical interview which included the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV


Lifetime anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) were diagnosed respectively in 2.0% and 4.6% of the subjects. The prevalence of lifetime atypical ED was 4.7% and that of binge eating disorder (BED) was 0.6%. The degree of urbanization has a significant impact on the prevalence of AN, BN, and BED. Social class, professional status, and education were not associated with an increased risk of reporting an ED, whereas the number of hypocaloric diets, having been a victim of childhood abuse, and, in BN, ever being overweight are significantly associated with ED.


Our findings have confirmed the importance of community studies to improve our knowledge about factors that have some influence on pathogenesis, treatment referral, and outcome.

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