A Cost Analysis of Eating Disorder Treatment

Costs associated with eating disorders include not only the treatment expenses, but also money spent on food, laxatives, diet pills, and diuretics.

Direct Medical Costs of Eating Disorder Treatments

In a 2013 study, researchers surveyed 147 people at four clinical centers who received cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for eating disorders. Participants in this study were women with purging or non-purging bulimia nervosa.

A health care diary was developed for participants to report health care costs. The diary used monthly calendars for the recording of daily health care costs. Data were sought regarding outpatient treatments of all sorts, including emergency room visits, day and partial hospitalization usage, hospitalization, and medications.

Here is a percentage breakdown of the treatment costs:

Other Monetary Costs of Eating Disorders

Some researchers also looked at the monetary costs for food and laxatives, diet pills, and diuretics used by individuals with bulimia nervosa.

In one study, researcher recruited 10 women with the clinical diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, and they asked the participants to complete a 7-day food record. Participants were asked to record all food intake, as well as use of laxatives, diet pills, and diuretics.

The results show that bulimia-related costs were quite substantial and represented approximately one-third of all food costs.

In a typical week, the mean total food cost is $106.98, out of which $30.65 is spent on binge/purge foods. Additionally, diet/laxative/diet pills cost $4.54 each week.


Sources consulted:

Scott J. Crow, et al. 2009."Monetary Costs Associated with Bulimia." International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42(1): 81–83.

Scott J. Crow, et al. 2013. "A cost effectiveness analysis of stepped care treatment for bulimia nervosa." International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(4): 302-307.