Eating disorders risk among medical students: a global systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Haitham JahramiEmail author
  • Mai Sater
  • Ahmed Abdulla
  • Mo’ez Al-Islam Faris
  • Ahmed AlAnsari



Medical students appear to be a high-risk group to develop psychological problems including eating disorders (ED). The prevalence estimates of ED risk vary greatly between studies. This systematic review and meta-analysis was done to estimate the prevalence of ED risk among medical students.


An electronic search of EMBASE, MEDLINE, ProQuest and Google Scholar was conducted. Studies that reported the prevalence of ED risk among medical students and were published in English peer-reviewed journals between 1982 and 2017 were included. Information about study characteristics and the prevalence of ED risk were extracted by four investigators. Each article was reviewed independently by at least two investigators. Estimates were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis using the DerSimonian–Laird method. The main outcome of interest was the prevalence of ED risk in medical students.


The prevalence of ED risk among medical students was extracted from nineteen cross-sectional studies across nine countries (total participants n = 5722). The overall pooled prevalence rate of ED risk was 10.4% (497/5722 students, 95% CI 7.8–13.0%), with statistically significant evidence between-study heterogeneity (Q = 295, τ2 = 0.003, I2 = 94.0%, P < 0.001). Prevalence estimates between studies ranged from 2.2 to 29.1%.


In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the summary prevalence of ED risk among medical students was 10.4%. Further research is needed to identify and prevent ED in this population. Studies are also needed to investigate concurrent pathologies associated with ED risk.

Level of evidence

Level I, systematic review and meta-analysis.


Eating disorder risk EAT-26 Medical students University students 


Author contributions

HJ and AA designed the study. MS, MF, HJ, AB coordinated data search, data entry and data cleaning. HJ performed statistical analyses and wrote the first draft. AA and MF provided intellectual contributions to strengthening the manuscript and suggested additional data analyses. All authors provided critical revisions of manuscript and approved the final version.


No funds were received towards the study at any stage.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychiatric Hospital, Ministry of HealthManamaKingdom of Bahrain
  2. 2.College of Medicine and Medical SciencesArabian Gulf UniversityManamaKingdom of Bahrain
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, College of Health Sciences/Sharjah Institute for Medical Research (SIMR)University of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates

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