Individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), including binge eating disorder (BED), are at increased risk of death compared to general population.
Investigators found that individuals with AN had a five times higher mortality rate than their same age peers. Individuals with BN, EDNOS, and BED, also to a lesser extent-had elevated mortality. Most patients with AN died of natural causes closely related to the eating disorder. Suicide was the primary cause of non-natural demise.
‘Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for an individual. Teenage girls and young women are at increased risk of developing an eating disorder.’
The study revealed that risk factors for premature death included a higher number of lifetime eating disorder hospitalizations, premature discharge from a hospital program, developing an eating disorder at an older age, poor social adjustment, and lower body mass index (BMI) at a time of hospitalization.
The researchers conclude that “suicide is a major concern not only in AN, but in all eating disorders, calling for the intensive attention of all clinicians.” The finding that premature discharge from treatment was associated with shorter time to death underscores the importance of maintaining and supporting individuals with eating disorders during the treatment process.
Dr. Manfred Fichter, the lead author of the study, stated that “there is still a desperate need to develop more effective treatments for eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa.” This research underscores the severity of eating disorders, with increased mortality observed for AN, BN, and even eating disorders not meeting full diagnostic criteria.
This study was part of the larger Christina Barz Study conducted in Germany. Study results have been published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.