One In Five Women Screened Positive For A Possible Eating Disorder In 2019

Almost a fifth of adult women screened positive for a possible eating disorder in a health survey.

The Health Survey for England found that 19 percent of women aged sixteen and over screened positive for a possible eating disorder when questioned on their relationship with food, in 2019.

Around one in eight men (13 percent ) also screened positive for a possible eating disorder in the same timeframe.

For women, prevalence was highest amongst those aged under 35 (28 percent of those aged between 16 and 24, and 27 percent of those aged between 25 and 34), before declining in line with age.

For men, prevalence was highest among those aged between 25 and 34 (19 percent), before also declining in line with age.

The Health Survey for England, 2019 monitors trends in the nation’s health and surveyed 8,205 adults and 2,095 children about a variety of topics including carers, obesity, smoking, and drinking.

The 2019 report also posed questions to participants on the unpaid caring responsibilities that they might have.

These found that 17 percent of adults aged 16 or over reported providing unpaid help or support to at least one person with women (20 percent) more likely than men (14 percent) to provide help.

Of those providing unpaid care:

  • Over half (55%) said they had received no support in providing care, most prevalent amongst those aged 65 and over (64%)
  • Nearly one in five (19%) suffered financial difficulties due to their caring responsibility
  • Approximately one in ten (11%) reported not being in paid work due to their caring responsibilities.  This was most prevalent amongst women, and those aged 45-64.

The survey also reports annually on a core number of topics of population health and can show longer term trends in these. It found that:

Overweight and obesity4

  • 68% of men and 60% of women were overweight or obese in 2019.  This compares to 58% of men and 49% of women in 1994
  • 27% of men and 29% of women were obese in 2019.  This compares to 14% of men and 17% of women in 1994
  • Among children, 18% of boys and 13% of girls were obese.  This compares to 11% of boys and 12% of girls in 19955.

Smoking

  • 18% of men and 15% of women reported that they currently smoke cigarettes.  This compares to 28% of men and 27% of women in 1994
  • Children aged between 8 and 15, were more than twice as likely to have ever tried an e-cigarette or vaping device (9%) than to have ever tried a tobacco cigarette (4%).  This compares to 19% who had ever smoked in 1997.

Diabetes

  • The proportion of adults with doctor-diagnosed diabetes has trebled in the last 25 years, from 3% of men and 2% of women in 1994 to 9% of men and 6% of women in 2019.

Cholesterol

  • The proportion of adults with raised total cholesterol has decreased in the last 21 years, from 66% of men and 67% of women in 1998, to 40% of men and 45% of women in 2019.

The Health Survey for England gathers information from both adults and children and is commissioned by NHS Digital and carried out by NatCen Social Research in conjunction with UCL who co-author the report.