Latest news | 29 Feb 2024

New Report Reveals Alarming Growth in Both Prevalence and Cost of Eating Disorders


Butterfly Foundation, the national charity for eating disorders, is calling for increased government funding for prevention of eating disorders in Australia, revealing a shocking 21% increase in the number of people with eating disorders and 36% increase in economic cost since 2012 ¹

  • The economic and social costs of eating disorders are now $67 billion – equivalent to $60,700 per person each year. 
  • An estimated 1.1 million Australians, or 4.5% of the population, are currently living with an eating disorder, with 10.5% experiencing an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime.  
  • 27% of Australians with an eating disorder were aged under 19 (up from 15% in 2012) 
  • Eating disorders cost the Federal Government $4.7 billion each year. 
  • More than twice as many people suffer from an eating disorder each year than are impacted by strokes, amounting to more than double the cost to the Australian economy. 

Butterfly Foundation today launched the second edition of ‘Paying the Price’ in partnership with Deloitte. This comprehensive report, more than a decade after the first edition in 2012, reveals the ongoing and devastating economic and social impacts of eating disorders in Australia and highlights the urgent need for action. 

Paying the Price 2024 comes at a critical time, following the release of the ‘National Eating Disorders Strategy 2023-2033’ by the National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NEDC) and draws attention to the escalating number of people impacted by eating disorders and the cost of eating disorders in Australia – both having significantly increased in the past 10 years, by 21% and 36%, respectively. 

The statistics paint a particularly concerning picture for women and young people, with women twice as likely as men to experience an eating disorder, and 27% of individuals with an eating disorder aged 19 years or younger – a concerning increase of 12% since 2012. With less than one in three (30%) of those affected seeking help and 1,273 deaths due to an eating disorder in 2023, it is clear much more needs to be done to resolve this public health crisis.  

Despite recent government investment in treatment for eating disorders, access to care remains limited for many, and most of the costs associated are financially crippling, particularly for individuals and their families. Additionally, individuals with an eating disorder lose an average of 10 days of work per year, contributing to lower-than-average wages and a greater likelihood of precarious employment. The total productivity costs to Australia are $18.1 billion per year.  

These financial challenges don’t just impact individuals with eating disorders, they also affect carers, communities and workplaces, with eating disorders resulting in healthcare system costs of $251million a year and employers paying an average of $44,381 a year per 100 employees due to presenteeism, absenteeism, and search and hire costs as a result of eating disorders. 

Chantel Le Cross (they/them) who has their own experience of an eating disorder, was consulted for the Paying the Price Report. Chantel – who is in their early 30s – had body image concerns which began as young as five, leading to them going on their first diet at the age of nine, and this worsened when they started to be bullied in primary school for their weight and later due to their gender identity.  

“The true cost of an eating disorder extends well beyond the financial burden of seeking mental health support. My eating disorder costs me 20% of my annual income. Even with Medicare rebates and private health insurance, just accessing therapists, psychiatrists, and dietitians runs up a cost of almost $12,000. Not only this, but across the year, I lose over 80 hours of paid work accessing treatment – and that doesn’t even include travel costs”.  

“Financial barriers shouldn’t be the reason people aren’t able to access the support and treatment they deserve, especially when they are footing the bill for the lifelong cost of an eating disorder.” 

“However, the biggest cost is the real-estate the eating disorder takes up in my brain. It’s a condition that infiltrates every aspect of someone’s life that they have to consistently manage, meaning less time being present with your family, less capacity at work, less bandwidth for your friends and less time spent just existing”, Chantel says. 

Increased awareness, including the ability to spot signs and symptoms, and support timely help-seeking, is critical for reducing the economic cost of eating disorders and number of Australians suffering. In line with the report, Butterfly is calling for the Government to commit to ongoing annual $12 million funding for universal and targeted prevention campaigns in schools and organisations, along with community-wide health promotion, to stop the growing prevalence and cost of eating disorders.  

As Dr. Jim Hungerford, CEO of Butterfly says, “The substantial increase in the prevalence of eating disorders and surge in economic costs since 2012 is deeply concerning. We call on the government to recognise that eating disorders are a public health crisis that demand urgent investment. Prevention is key – the earlier we can help someone before an eating disorder develops, the better the social and economic outcome”. 

“We need universal prevention programs in schools, sporting groups, workplaces, and online environments to promote healthy body image and reduce eating disorder risk at the earliest opportunity. Butterfly has not received any government funding for the health promotion work we have been doing in the Australian community for more than 20 years and now is the time for government to step up so that we can stop Australians paying a high price for eating disorders.” added Dr. Hungerford. 

The cross-partisan Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Eating Disorders Awareness group, Susan Templeman MP, Andrew Wallace MP and Zoe Daniel MP, came together at the launch to endorse the report and advocate for more funding: 

“This powerful report from Butterfly reinforces how much more we still need to do to support the more than one million Australians currently living with an eating disorder. Thanks to this work, we now have up to date, significant evidence that sadly shows that what we are doing is not enough for every sufferer. While people currently living with an eating disorder, especially those in crisis, need continued and specialised support, it is clear that early intervention and prevention strategies are a powerful tool to stop the scourge of eating disorders. We will bring these findings to the Government and ask that they be considered to ensure continual improvements in the lifechanging prevention and early intervention efforts that deliver better outcomes for all Australians.” 

While Paying the Price 2024 was funded through generous donations from supporters, Butterfly acknowledges that the responsibility of updating prevalence statistics and monitoring the impacts of eating disorders shouldn’t solely be on charity organisations and calls on the government to invest in the essential collection and analysis of data to inform policy and effectively allocate funding to make a difference for the millions of Australians who are affected. 

Read more about the report and the critical need for funding here:  


Media Contacts  

Harriet Potter  

Butterfly Communications Manager   

Ph: 0451 837 044  


Emma Hopgood  

Edelman for Butterfly Foundation  

Ph: 0435 671 617  



About Butterfly Foundation   

Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly is on a mission to create a more ‘Body Kind’ Australia, where young people grow up treating their own bodies and all bodies with respect and kindness. Butterfly has been running school prevention and intervention programs for over 17 years, supporting both primary and secondary schools to help kids thrive and learn to love their bodies from a young age.  

Editor and producers note  

Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders.  

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact: 

  • Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or   
  • Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23 
  • For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14 


[1]  Deloitte Access Economics. (2024). Paying the Price, Second Edition: The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia. Report commissioned for Butterfly Foundation. Sydney: Butterfly Foundation.