Results from a newly published study indicate that individuals with eating disorders are at increased risk of death compared to the general population. Investigators found that individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) had a five times higher mortality rate than their same age peers. Individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), including binge eating disorder (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.
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 time of hospitalization.
The researchers conclude that "suicide is a major concern not only in AN, but in all eating disorders, calling for 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, 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.
Academy for Eating Disorders (AED)