The prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys

Ronald C. Kessler, Patricia A. Berglund, Wai Tat Chiu, Anne C. Deitz, James I. Hudson, Victoria Shahly, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Jordi Alonso, Matthias C. Angermeyer, Corina Benjet, Ronny Bruffaerts, Giovanni De Girolamo, Ron De Graaf, Josep Maria Haro, Viviane Kovess-Masfety, Siobhan O'Neill, Jose Posada-Villa, Carmen Sasu, Kate Scott, Maria Carmen VianaMiguel Xavier

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866 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Little population-based data exist outside the United States on the epidemiology of binge eating disorder (BED). Cross-national BED data are presented here and compared with bulimia nervosa (BN) data in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Surveys. Methods: Community surveys with 24,124 respondents (ages 18+) across 14 mostly upper-middle and high-income countries assessed lifetime and 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Physical disorders were assessed with a chronic conditions checklist. Results: Country-specific lifetime prevalence estimates are consistently (median; interquartile range) higher for BED (1.4%;.8-1.9%) than BN (.8%;.4-1.0%). Median age of onset is in the late teens to early 20s for both disorders but slightly younger for BN. Persistence is slightly higher for BN (6.5 years; 2.2-15.4) than BED (4.3 years; 1.0-11.7). Lifetime risk of both disorders is elevated for women and recent cohorts. Retrospective reports suggest that comorbid DSM-IV disorders predict subsequent onset of BN somewhat more strongly than BED and that BN predicts subsequent comorbid disorders somewhat more strongly than does BED. Significant comorbidities with physical conditions are due almost entirely to BN and to a somewhat lesser degree BED predicting subsequent onset of these conditions. Role impairments are similar for BN and BED. Fewer than half of lifetime BN or BED cases receive treatment. Conclusions: Binge eating disorder represents a public health problem at least equal to BN. Low treatment rates highlight the clinical importance of questioning patients about eating problems even when not included among presenting complaints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-914
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • Binge eating disorder
  • bulimia nervosa
  • comorbidity
  • epidemiology
  • treatment
  • WHO World Mental Health Surveys


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