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Prevalence of eating disorders in males: a review of rates reported in academic research and UK mass media

Sweeting H, Walker L, MacLean A, Patterson C, Räisänen U & Hunt K (2015) Prevalence of eating disorders in males: a review of rates reported in academic research and UK mass media. International Journal of Men's Health, 14 (2), pp. 86-112.

Media presentations of health issues affect evaluations of personal susceptibility to particular illnesses and hence help-seeking behaviours. We examined data on prevalence of eating disorders (EDs—which are often characterised as “female”) among males in: scientific literature; readily-accessible web-based information; and UK newspaper articles (published 7/12/2002-7/12/2012). This revealed conflicting statistics. Academic papers suggest men comprise around 25% of community-based samples, but much lower proportions (10% or less) of clinic samples. Websites and newspapers presented widely differing statistics both on prevalence overall (numbers with EDs in the UK ranged from 60,000 to 2.7 million), and in men (generally suggesting they constituted 10-25% of those with EDs), rarely distinguishing between diagnosed and non-diagnosed samples. By 2011, newspapers were more consistent on overall numbers with EDs in the UK (1.6 million) and the proportion who were men (20%), drawing on one website as the authoritative source. Conflicting statistics may confuse men searching for ED (or other) health-related information, lead to underestimations of male susceptibility to EDs and/or reinforce inappropriate stereotypes of EDs as confined to adolescent girls.

eating disorders; males; gender differences; prevalence; media; newspapers; websites

International Journal of Men's Health: Volume 14, Issue 2

Author(s)Sweeting, Helen; Walker, Laura; MacLean, Alice; Patterson, Chris; Räisänen, Ulla; Hunt, Kate
FundersMedical Research Council
Publication date31/12/2015
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