Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Binge-eating and vomiting: a survey of a college population

Katherine A. Halmia1 c1, James R. Falka1 and Estelle Schwartza1

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, New York, USA


A survey of 355 college students was carried out to determine the prevalence of the psychiatric disorder bulimia (the binge-eating syndrome). Results of the survey indicate that, within the normal college population, 13% experienced all of the major symptoms of bulimia as outlined in the DSM-III. Within the bulimic population, 87% were females (19% of the female population) and 13% were males (5% of the male population). Although self-induced vomiting may accompany other symptoms of bulimia, the results suggest that self-induced vomiting is not a necessary symptom for diagnosis. A significant relationship between laxative use and self-induced vomiting was detected. These forms of behaviour, termed purging behaviour, occurred in an average of 10% of the students. Individuals who experienced the symptoms of bulimia had a history of being overweight or tended to be in the upper portion of their normal weight range (age, sex, and weight corrected) when compared with those individuals who had not experienced the symptoms of bulimia. No significant weight history differences were detected between vomiters and non-vomiters.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr K. A. Halmi, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, New York, USA.