September 26, 2008

A shocking sixty-five percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 have disordered eating behaviors, according to the results of a new survey sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and SELF Magazine.

“Our survey found that these behaviors cut across racial and ethnic lines and are not limited to any one group,” says Dr. Cynthia R. Bulik, William and Jeanne Jordan Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders in the UNC School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry, director of the UNC Eating Disorders Program, and professor of nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Despite the stereotype that eating disorders affect mostly younger women, the survey found that women in their 30s and 40s reported disordered eating habits at the same rate as women in their 20s.

According to the survey:

  • 75 percent of women reported disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with eating disorders.
  • 53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight.
  • 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness.
  • 27 percent would be “extremely upset” if they gained just five pounds.
  • 13 percent smoke to lose weight.

The online survey garnered responses from 4,023 women who answered detailed questions about their eating habits. Results and analysis appeared in SELF‘s May 2008 issue available online at

Bulik and study co-author Lauren Reba-Harrelson, a third-year UNC clinical psychology graduate student, presented the survey results at the 2008 International Conference on Eating Disorders on May 17, 2008, in Seattle, Wash.


Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. To subscribe to Carolina Public Health or to view the entire Fall 2008 issue in PDF, visit

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