Eating Disorders Are More Common at Schools With More Girls Than Boys

From Cosmopolitan

A new study shows that eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating may be more prevalent at schools where a greater portion of the students are girls than boys, according to a press release from the University of Oxford, which means the school you attend might effect your chances for developing such a disorder.

The study was published yesterday in the International Journal of Epidemiology, and pulled from data from Sweden. Researchers on the study found that – even when taking individual background factors into account – there were still differences in eating disorder rates according to the school someone attended. Girls who go to schools with higher proportions of female students were more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder than girls who went to predominantly male schools.

Of course the key word is diagnosed. As Dr. Helen Bould, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Oxford and the lead researcher on the study, said, "it could be that some schools are better than others at identifying eating disorders in their students and ensuring they get diagnosed and treated." So, based on the results of this study, it’s possible that schools with more girls in attendance are just better at spotting the signs.

"Unfortunately, this study can’t tell us what it is about schools that affects the rates of eating disorders," Gould said in the study’s press release. "It might be an unintentional effect of the aspirational culture of some schools that makes eating disorders more likely; it might be that eating disorders are contagious and can spread within a school."

Women are much more likely to develop an eating disorder than men in general, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, and rates among adolescents are particularly high – 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. Things are especially dire for young women. The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate for all other causes of death for girls between 15 and 24.

For more information on eating disorders, you can go to the National Institute of Mental House website.

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