General News — 11 December 2012

Almost one million Australians have an eating disorder, costing the nation a staggering $69.7 billion this year, research shows.

The Paying the Price report, launched by the Butterfly Foundation today, looks at the prevalence and social and economic costs of eating disorders in Australia.

“Until now, we had no idea that the socioeconomic impact of eating disorders was comparable to around 2% of Australia’s GDP,” said CEO of the Butterfly Foundation Christine Morgan.

The landmark report estimates there are 913,986 Australians with an eating disorder, with Deloitte Access Economics putting the total social and economic cost at $69.7 billion this year.

It estimates 3% have anorexia nervosa, 12% have bulimia nervosa, 47% have binge eating disorder and 38% have other eating disorders.

Ms Morgan said it was important to keep in mind that the figures presented in the report were a conservative assessment, based on the limited data currently available.

The report suggests mortality rates are almost twice as high for people with eating disorders than in the general population.

And it estimates that up to 1828 people died from eating disorders in 2012 (515 males and 1313 females).

“The number of annual deaths, for eating disorders, is higher than the 2011 Australian road death toll,” Ms Morgan said in a statement.

The Butterfly Foundation is urging state, territory and federal governments to resolve the ongoing issue of mental health funding.

It says acute sector and community service providers need to have the necessary protocols and specialist knowledge for early identification and care for people with eating disorders, and private health insurance coverage needs to be extended.

As first appeared in Medical Observer, 11 December 2012

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