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Social and economic cost of eating disorders in the US

Report for STRIPED and the AED

The Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) and the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to estimate the social and economic impact of eating disorders in the United States (US).

Deloitte Access Economics estimated the social and economic costs due to eating disorders in the US for the 2018-19 fiscal year, including health care costs, productivity losses such as short term absences from work and reduced workforce participation, informal caregiving, and efficiency losses. As well as the financial costs, the loss of wellbeing due to eating disorders was measured using disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and converted to dollars using the value of a statistical life year.

The report found that more than 28.8 million Americans alive today will have an eating disorder at some point during their lives – either in the past, present or future. The one-year prevalence of eating disorders was estimated to be 1.66% (5.48 million people).

The financial cost of eating disorders was estimated to be $64.7 billion in the US for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which equated to $11,808 per person with an eating disorder. Productivity losses accounted for the largest share of these costs (75.2%, $48.6 billion), followed by informal caregiving (10.4%, $6.7 billion), efficiency losses (7.4%, $4.8 billion) and health system costs (7.0%, $4.6 billion). These costs were primarily incurred by individuals and their families and friends who bore 36.3% of total financial costs, while government, employers and the rest of society respectively bore 27.5%, 25.2%, and 11.0% of total financial costs.

As well as financial costs, eating disorders result in a significant loss of wellbeing value – estimated at $326.5 billion, or 1.3 million DALYs in the US in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Annually, there are approximately 10,200 deaths associated with eating disorders in the US, imposing a substantial reduction in overall wellbeing.

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