Eating Disorders in Switzerland

Eating disorders have long-term physical and mental impacts on those affected. However, few population-based studies have estimated the prevalence of eating disorders. We aimed to estimate the lifetime and 12-month prevalence rates of eating disorders using DSM-IV criteria, and to examine differences against the DSM-5 criteria for anorexia. A nationally-representative sample of 10,038 residents in Switzerland was interviewed, and prevalence rates for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) were assessed using “WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interviews” (WHO-CIDI).

The lifetime prevalence rate for any eating disorder was found to be 3.5%. Lifetime prevalence estimates for AN, BN, and/or BED were 1.2%, 2.4%, and 2.4%, respectively, among women and 0.2%, 0.9%, and 0.7%, respectively, among men. Utilizing the DSM-5 criteria, the prevalence of AN in women increased by more than 50%, from 1.2% to 1.9 %. Among those meeting the criteria for any eating disorder, only 49.4% of men and 67.9% of women had ever sought professional help about their problems with eating or weight. The higher prevalence of bulimia nervosa we detected relative to other studies should prompt further monitoring for a possible increasing trend. The female versus male ratios, especially for bulimia and binge-eating disorder, are decreasing. Given that more than half of those affected have never consulted any professional about their problems with eating or weight, routine inquiries about eating and weight by clinicians, school teachers/psychologists, and family members may help those who are at risk, especially among men.