Bulimia nervosa affects between 1% and 3% of women in the developed countries; its prevalence is thought to have increased markedly since 1970. The rates are similar across cultures as otherwise different as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Canada, France, Germany, and Israel. About 90% of patients diagnosed with bulimia are female as of 2002, but some researchers believe that the rate of bulimia among males is rising faster than the rate among females.
The average age at onset of bulimia nervosa appears to be dropping in the developed countries. A study of eating disorders in Rochester, Minnesota over the 50 years between 1935 and 1985 indicated that the incidence rates for women over 20 remained fairly constant, but there was a significant rise for women between 15 and 20 years of age. The average age at onset among women with bulimia was 14 and among men, 18.
In terms of sexual orientation, gay men appear to be as vulnerable to developing bulimia as heterosexual women, while lesbians are less vulnerable.
Recent studies indicate that bulimia in the United States is no longer primarily a disorder of Caucasian women; the rates among African American and Hispanic women have risen faster than the rate of bulimia for the female population as a whole. One report indicates that the chief difference between African American and Caucasian bulimics in the United States is that the African American patients are less likely to eat restricted diets between episodes of binge eating.
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