Numerous studies have estimated the frequency of bulimia nervosa among high school girls and college women, but population-based trends in incidence in a community have not been reported.
In this study we determined the incidence of bulimia nervosa by identifying persons residing in the community of Rochester, Minnesota, who had the disorder initially diagnosed during the 11-year period from 1980 to 1990. Using our comprehensive population-based data resource (the Rochester Epidemiology Project), we identified cases by screening 777 medical records with diagnoses of bulimia; feeding disturbance; rumination syndrome; adverse effects of cathartics, emetics, or diuretics; polyphagia; sialosis; or vomiting.
We identified 103 Rochester residents (100 female and 3 male) who fulfilled DSM-III-R diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa during the 11-year study period. Mean ± S.D. age for females at the time of diagnosis was 23·0 ± 6·1 years (range, 14·4 to 40·2 years). Yearly incidence in females rose sharply from 7·4 per 100000 population in 1980 to 49·7 in 1983, and then remained relatively constant around 30 per 100000 population. The annual age-adjusted incidence rates were 26·5 per 100000 population for females and 0·8 per 100000 population for males. The overall age-and sex-adjusted annual incidence was 13·5 per 100000 population.
Bulimia nervosa is a common disorder in adolescent girls and young women from 15 to 24 years of age. Histories of alcohol or drug abuse, depression, or anorexia nervosa were higher than expected in the general population.