Children at Risk

In Western, industrialized countries, about 1 percent to 3 percent of women experience bulimia during their life. The rate of bulimia in men is about one-tenth of that in women.

Bulimia often begins in late adolescence or early adulthood - transitional periods that are often accompanied by increasing peer pressure, dieting and emotional upheaval. Bulimia is more common in college students than in adolescents.

Researchers have identified certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering bulimia, including:

  • Dieting. Children who diet who are likely to develop an eating disorder.. Dieting can trigger a binge episode, leading to purging and then more dieting - and consequently a vicious cycle is set in place.

  • Pubertal changes. Some adolescents have trouble coping with the changes in their bodies during puberty. They also have to deal with increased peer pressure and may be overly sensitive to criticism or even casual comments about their weight or body.

  • Transitions. Whether it's heading off to college, moving, landing a new job or a relationship breakup, changes are frequent in the lives of adolescents and can bring emotional distress. One way to cope in a situation in which a person feels out of control, is to turn to something that they can control, such as eating.

  • Sports, work and artistic activities. Athletes, actors and television personalities, dancers, gymnasts, runners, wrestlers and models are at higher risk of eating disorders such as bulimia. Coaches and parents may contribute to eating disorders by suggesting that young athletes lose weight.

  • Media and society. The media, such as television and fashion magazines, frequently feature skinny models. Exposure to these images may lead girls and young women to believe that thinness leads to success and popularity.