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Paying the Price, Second Edition

The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia.


Eating disorders (EDs) are a group of serious, complex and life-threatening mental illnesses often characterised by disturbances in behaviours, thoughts and attitudes to food, eating, and body weight or shape. EDs have detrimental impacts upon a person’s life and result in serious medical, psychiatric and psychosocial consequences.

In 2012, Butterfly Foundation engaged Deloitte Access Economics to estimate the economic and social cost of EDs in Australia. The 2023 report uses updated data and methodologies to estimate the economic cost of EDs in Australia in the financial year (FY) 2022-23 (henceforth referred to as 2023). Importantly, this study provides a more precise understanding of EDs by condition, age and sex.

There were 1.1 million or 4.45% of Australians living with an ED in 2023, increasing by 21% since 2012. This is equivalent to 1 in 23 people, with EDs being especially prevalent among women and adolescents. EDs have wide-ranging impacts on individuals and families, including death. In 2023, there were an estimated 1,273 deaths due to an ED in Australia.

The total economic and social cost of EDs was $66.9 billion in 2023, equivalent to $60,654 per person with an ED. The most significant impact of eating disorders by far is on an individual’s wellbeing – $46.1 billion in 2023 (69% of total costs). This is equivalent to a total of approximately 136,700 years lived with a disability and 30,000 years of life lost, across individuals with an ED in Australia in 2023.

This research found that EDs are prevalent and costly conditions that have significant impacts on individuals with EDs, their families and carers, businesses, and society. The report demonstrates that further investment is needed, in prevention as well as treatment and other support. 

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