Gender difference in the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms


  • The contents of this study are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official of the NIH, NIMH, NIDDK, or the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute.

  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.



This study examined gender differences in prevalence of eating disorder symptoms including body image concerns (body checking or avoidance), binge eating, and inappropriate compensatory behaviors.


A random sample of members (ages 18–35 years) of a health maintenance organization was recruited to complete a survey by mail or on-line. Items were drawn from the Patient Health Questionnaire and the Body Shape Questionnaire.


Among the 3,714 women and 1,808 men who responded, men were more likely to report overeating, whereas women were more likely to endorse loss of control while eating. Although statistically significant gender differences were observed, with women significantly more likely than men to report body checking and avoidance, binge eating, fasting, and vomiting, effect sizes (“Number Needed to Treat”) were small to moderate.


Few studies of eating disorders include men, yet our findings suggest that a substantial minority of men also report eating disorder symptoms. © 2008 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2009