How abnormal is binge eating? 18-Year time trends in population prevalence and burden

D. Mitchison*, S. Touyz, D. A. González-Chica, N. Stocks, P. Hay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Although findings suggest that binge eating is becoming increasingly normative, the 'clinical significance' of this behaviour at a population level remains uncertain. We aimed to assess the time trends in binge-eating prevalence and burden over 18 years. Method: Six cross-sectional face-to-face surveys of the Australian adult population were conducted in 1998, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2014, and 2015 (Ntotal = 15 126). Data were collected on demographics, 3-month prevalence of objective binge eating (OBE), health-related quality of life, days out of role, and distress related to OBE. Results: The prevalence of OBE increased six-fold from 1998 (2.7%) to 2015 (13.0%). Health-related quality of life associated with OBE improved from 1998 to 2015, where it more closely approximated population norms. Days out of role remained higher among participants who reported OBE, although decreased over time. Half of participants who reported weekly (56.6%) and twice-weekly (47.1%) OBE reported that they were not distressed by this behaviour. However, the presence of distress related to OBE in 2015 was associated with greater health-related quality-of-life impairment. Conclusion: As the prevalence of binge eating increases over time, associated disability has been decreasing. Implications for the diagnosis of disorders associated with binge eating are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-155
Number of pages9
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number2
Early online date16 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • eating and feeding disorders
  • binge-eating disorder
  • binge eating
  • burden of illness


Dive into the research topics of 'How abnormal is binge eating? 18-Year time trends in population prevalence and burden'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this