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Rates of Eating Disorders Similar for US Boys, Girls Aged 9-10

November 28, 2018

By Anne Harding 

NEW YORK—There are no gender differences in rates of eating disorders (EDs) among 9- and 10-year-olds, according to a new U.S. study.

"We were surprised to find no gender differences, even at this age," Kaitlin Rozzell, the study's first author and a graduate student at San Diego State University, told Reuters Health by phone. "Typically you may expect eating disorders to be more prevalent among girls."

Pediatricians should be aware that EDs can occur in boys as well as girls, she added, and become familiar with symptoms in males as well as females.

Early-onset EDs are becoming increasingly common, with worse psychiatric comorbidity among children compared to adolescents, Rozzell and her team note in JAMA Pediatrics, online November 26.

They looked at data from the National Institutes of Health-funded, open-access Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which enrolled 4,524 9- and 10-year-olds in 2016-2017.

Based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) criteria, prevalence of EDs across all diagnoses was 1.4%, while it was 0.7% for other specified feeding and eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa prevalence was 0.1%, binge eating disorder 0.6%, and there were no cases of bulimia nervosa. Prevalence of EDs overall and of specific types was similar for girls and boys.

"Sex differences in EDs may not emerge until adolescence," Rozzell and her colleagues note. "This is consistent with previous research demonstrating a lack of prepubertal sex differences in EDs, with elevated prevalence of EDs in girls during and after puberty."


JAMA Pediatr 2018.

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