Who is affected by anorexia nervosa

Although anorexia nervosa is not common, affecting only 5 to 10 people out of every 100,000 people, it is a growing problem.1 Anorexia nervosa is more common in industrialized countries, where lack of food is not generally a problem and thinness is prized.

You are more likely to develop anorexia nervosa if you:2

  • Are female. Although males can develop anorexia, it is rare. For every 10 females who develop anorexia, approximately 1 male does.
  • Are a white adolescent from a Western society, although people all over the world from all races and age groups develop anorexia.
  • Participate in sports or work in a profession that requires a certain body type. Examples include:
    • Athletes (such as runners, wrestlers, figure skaters, swimmers, gymnasts, or jockeys).
    • Models.
    • Ballet dancers.
    • Actors.
  • Have a sister, brother, or parent who has anorexia.


  1. Agras WS (2008). The eating disorders. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 13, chap. 9. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
  2. Fairburn CG, Harrison PJ (2003). Eating disorders. Lancet, 361(9355): 407–416.

Last Updated: September 16, 2009

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