Sixteen per cent of adults could have an eating disorder


One in five women and one in eight men screened positive for a possible eating disorder in 2019, recently published NHS England figures show.

When questioned about their relationship with food, 16% of adults who took part in the Health Survey for England 2019 were flagged up as potentially having an eating disorder. The proportion screening positive increased as household income decreased.

For women, potential eating disorders were most prevalent in those aged under 35s (28% of those aged between 16-24 and 27% of those aged 25-34). Men aged between 25 and 34 were more likely than men from any other age group to screen positive for a possible eating disorder (19%).

Participants were asked whether, during the past year they:

  • had lost more than one stone in a three-month period
  • had made themselves be sick because they felt uncomfortably full
  • had worried they had lost control over how much they ate
  • had believed themselves to be fat when others said they were too thin
  • would have said food dominated their life.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) of men and 60% of women said they were overweight or obese in 2019, compared with 58% of men and 49% of women in 1994. Some 27% of men and 29% of women were classified as obese.

Diabetes among both sexes had trebled in prevalence since 1994: 9% of men and 6% of women said a doctor had diagnosed them with diabetes.

The proportion of adults with raised total cholesterol decreased from 66% of men and 67% of women in 1998 to 40% of men and 45% of women in 2019.

Eighteen per cent of men and 15% of women said they smoked cigarettes in 2019, while 7% of men and 5% of women used e-cigarettes.

Asked about whether they had untreated high blood pressure, 14% of men and 11% of women answered yes. The highest proportions were seen in the North West and North East.

A total of 8,205 adults aged 16 and over and 2,095 children took part in the Health Survey for England 2019.

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