Spotlight on Eating Disorders
January 25, 2024
Eating disorders are a group of mental health conditions that have to do with eating behaviors. They can be very serious and even life-threatening. A white paper from FAIR Health found that from 2018 to 2022, eating disorder claim lines rose by 65 percent. (A claim line is a service or procedure listed on an insurance claim.) Also, almost three-quarters of patients with eating disorders had some other kind of mental health condition as well.
Types of Eating Disorder
The study looked at four main types of eating disorder. These were anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Many people with eating disorders are afraid of gaining weight. Anorexia is an eating problem in which people are so afraid of gaining weight that they stop eating. Or they eat very little. Bulimia is an eating problem in which people eat a lot, then throw up. Or they work out a lot to stop gaining weight. Binge-eating disorder is an eating problem in which a person eats a lot in one sitting, like with bulimia. But a person with binge-eating disorder won’t throw up or work out afterward. ARFID is an illness in which people limit what they eat and can become very thin. Unlike with other eating disorders, a person with ARFID doesn’t have a fear of gaining weight in most cases. The study also included a type known as “other” eating disorders. These were eating disorders that weren’t one of the four main types.
From 2018 to 2022, the most common eating disorder without other accompanying eating disorders was binge-eating disorder. This health issue was found in almost a quarter of all patients with eating disorders (24.3 percent). The second most common was anorexia. That health problem (without other eating disorders) was found in 24.1 percent of all patients with eating disorders. Bulimia was the third most common and was found in 6.2 percent of patients. ARFID came last and was found in 5.3 percent of patients.
Mental Health and Substance Use
The white paper showed that 72 percent of patients with eating disorders had some other kind of mental health condition. This varied by eating disorder. With the lowest share, 65 percent of patients with ARFID had some other kind of mental health condition. The highest share was among patients with bulimia. About 78 percent of patients with that eating disorder had some other kind of mental health condition. The most common other kinds of mental health conditions were generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.
Compared to all patients in FAIR Health’s records from 2018 to 2022, patients with eating disorders were over five times as likely to have some other kind of mental health condition. Patients with eating disorders were also over four times as likely to have a substance use disorder.
Eating Disorders by Age and Gender
From 2018 to 2022, the number one age group of patients with eating disorders changed. In 2018, young adults aged 19 to 24 made up the biggest share of eating disorder claim lines (25 percent). But in 2022, it was teens aged 14 to 18 who made up the largest share (28 percent).
The report showed anorexia was most common in teens and young adults aged 14 to 24. Bulimia was most common in 14- to 40-year-olds. Binge-eating disorder was common in an older group of people, with most claim lines from 25- to 65-year-olds. ARFID, though, was most common in younger patients, with most ARFID claim lines from people aged 0 to 24.
The study also found that most eating disorder claim lines (more than 89 percent) were submitted for female patients. On the other hand, the findings showed that males made up a higher share than females in children aged 0 to 9. In all other age groups, females made up a higher share of claim lines than males.