With so many different influencers saying what they say online, and various other platforms messing with our minds, it’s no wonder that college students might get confused about eating habits. Of course, eating disorders can be life-threatening, and it’s thus critical that we address any and all eating-related issues that may arise.
Treatment for eating disorders is still not up to par. There’s a big stigma against those suffering from eating disorders, and with movements like “fat shaming” on the rise, you can probably understand why it can be hard to talk about them.
Food is part of our culture and livelihood, so it would make sense why someone might be a bit afraid to speak of their problems with it.
But for now, we’re going to look at how these disorders affect young people in life, particularly those in college. These folks are young and have their whole lives ahead of them… Do they really need more pressure from the media to look a certain way?
Eating Disorders on the Rise Among Young Adults
- Mental illness is one of the most harrowing illnesses to suffer from. No one else can see it, but it certainly is there. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Americans suffer from mental illness and that more than 30 million individuals in the USA suffer from eating disorders. Even more worrying – eating disorders seem to have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- While many believe it to be a myth, eating disorders are rather prevalent in adolescent females. Around 15% of American females suffer from anorexia, which is the third most common chronic illness among U.S. females. Other studies indicate that between 0.7 and 4% of the general population suffer from binge eating disorders as well.
- Mike Gurr, the executive director at The Meadows Ranch (an eating disorder clinic), says that an estimated 40% of all freshmen arrive at university having already struggled with eating disorders. Furthermore, in female-only colleges, that number skyrockets to 80%! According to Gurr, this makes sense, seeing as change can be hard for those suffering from any mental illness, and this is usually the first time these kids leave home and are in charge of their own diet. Thus, he isn’t too surprised by the statistic, but he is worried about the magnitude of the situation.
- Could the health craze of the 20th century have had a negative effect on the minds of younger individuals? It would appear so, seeing as the number of college students who’ve dieted increased from 4.2 to 22% between 1995 and 2008. It’s also worth noting that 4.4% to 5.9% of teens will enter college with a preexisting, untreated eating disorder.
- Are the numbers beginning to worry you? Well, unfortunately, they only get worse from there. A 2020 article called Eating Disorders On the Rise Among College Students claims that more than 1500 female and 900 male students at Southern Utah University battle an eating disorder.
Exploring the Prevalence of Eating Disorders Among College Students
College is a tricky time. You’re unsure about your place in the world, you’re probably in the wrong class, and you’re not entirely sure what that bump on your arm is either – better call mom…
It’s come to the attention of researchers that eating disorders are rather widespread among college students. In fact, research has pinpointed that the average onset of anorexia and bulimia is around 18 years old, whereas the onset of binge eating disorders is about 21.
The same 2001 study mentioned earlier also found that more than 4% of men and women already have symptoms of eating disorders when they roll up to their first day in college.
Even more worrisome: gender minority students seem to be worse off, as they’re 2 – 4 times more likely to develop eating disorders and other mental illnesses as well. Other studies indicate that athletes are more likely to develop these disorders, seeing as even more pressure is placed on them to perform physically.
Having symptoms of eating disorders might not seem too dangerous, but when you look at the risks involved, it quickly becomes eye-opening just how serious the situation really is:
- Rapid weight changes that could result in muscle and bone density loss
- Low energy and severe fatigue
- Poor mental health as well as lower ability to focus in class
- Malnutrition of both micro and macronutrients
- Hormonal changes in men and women alike, such as hair loss and period loss, respectively
- Development of other mental illnesses
Overall, it doesn’t look good.
Eating Disorders Are Particularly Concerning Among Young Women
While men do face their fair share of inconveniences in today’s life, it would appear that – when it comes to eating disorders – females are suffering a bit more.
- While dieting can be a healthy practice to lose weight in a realistic environment, more than 80% of female college-goers have dieted, and 50% suffered from binge eating in their first year of college.
- Unfortunately, these rates are still rising. It’s estimated that between 10% and 20% of females and 4% – 10% of males in college are already suffering from some type of eating disorder.
- A 2011 study confirmed that among 2,800 college students, 13.5% of women and 3.6% of men showed eating disorder symptoms, such as body dysmorphia, bulimia, etc. Symptoms would then lead to poor relationships with food that eventually led to the development of horrible eating disorders. So it’d be wise to address any and all eating disorder symptoms sooner rather than later.
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Students With Eating Disorders Are Not Receiving Sufficient Treatment
If you haven’t caught on to the overarching theme by now, eating disorders are quite prevalent in both men and women. However, it appears that those suffering still don’t get the support they deserve.
- The same 2011 study also found that among the studied students, most of the students suffering from eating disorders don’t get treated … or aren’t even identified! In fact, just 20% of them received mental health treatment in the past 12 months.
- Many would be quick to argue that eating disorders are physical illnesses that need to be treated with diet and other hacks. However, professionals in psychology know it requires more mental help. Currently, 30 – 70% of individuals seeking help for an eating disorder receive treatment for weight loss, not mental health.
- Still don’t believe the figures? Over the course of 4 years (2011 – 2015), Virginia Commonwealth University’s counseling center saw a 45% increase in the number of students seeking counseling. Since then, the numbers have continued to rise.
Thousands of Deaths Each Year Are Due to an Eating Disorder
Unfortunately, there are also those who lose their battles against eating disorders and pass away. This solidifies the fears of many that eating disorders are real and should be addressed immediately.
- The most harrowing of figures is simply the fact that one person dies every 52 minutes due to an eating disorder. That’s more than 10,200 deaths per year. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and more than 30 million Americans suffer from one of these illnesses.
- Of the 10,200 deaths per year, it should be noted that 26% of people suffering from eating disorders will attempt suicide.
- Speaking of suicide, another staggering statistic is that those suffering from eating disorders are 50 times more likely to attempt suicide.
How Many College Girls Struggle with Eating Disorders?
Before we look at a simple answer, we should first look at the environment that’s been created for females (in general). There are thousands, if not millions, of Instagram accounts that look at how to “improve” the female look, and a lot of them do take note of the weight.
This may seem like a modern idea, but in reality, it stretches back several years, way before you might think:
- An advertisement for reducing tablets that saw daylight in 1909 claimed that “Fat is not good Flesh” and “Why not rid yourself of unsightliness and discomfort.” Bonus: it’s only two bucks!
- Looking for the magic pill to shed all that poundage in a week or two? Look no further than this bath salt from Glogau & Co from 1908, which claims to help you lose weight without you lifting a finger or dieting.
- Fast forward to the 1920s, and people were told to smoke cigarettes in order to lose weight! This was due to nicotine’s ability to reduce appetite… amongst other things.
- What about some fruit? Fruit surely can’t be bad, can it? Well, that’s unless it’s grapefruit. Not to give throw shade at grapefruit, but in the 30s, people were advised to eat one with every meal for 10 – 12 days in order to lose a few pounds. Brilliant.
- Perhaps the most concerning so far – how about eating a worm to share your food with? Swallowing a tapeworm to grow and breed within you was all the rave in the 50s. Even more worrying: it’s apparently still used by some models to stay slender year-round.
- Today, we see a mismatch of detox, liver diets, and everything else in between.
So, who do you believe?
Well, the information is so overwhelming that 91% of college females claim to have dieted, and 10 – 20% of all college females have eating disorders. Dieting in and of itself isn’t unhealthy, but combine it with misinformation or unreasonable expectations, and it’s a hard sell.
What Percentage of College Girls Have an Eating Disorder?
According to recent research, a staggering 91% of college females report having gone on a diet at some point. In addition, it’s estimated that 10-20% of all college females have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. While dieting can be a healthy choice, it can become problematic when fueled by misinformation or unrealistic expectations.
What Is the Prevalence of Eating Disorders Among College Students?
Eating disorders are common among college students, typically emerging at around age 18 for anorexia and bulimia and at around age 21 for binge eating disorders. A study conducted in 2001 also revealed that over 4% of new college students display symptoms of an eating disorder.
If you feel you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to take action sooner rather than later. Perhaps avoiding the media or certain online personas could be of help, but most of all, you should seek professional help. Your life matters.
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