Psychiatric illnesses may increase the risk of early death in people with anorexia nervosa

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Last reviewed: 14.06.2024

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12 June 2024, 14:53

A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders finds that the mortality rate in patients with anorexia nervosa is high and is almost twice as high with presence of psychiatric diseases.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on all people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in Denmark between 1977 and 2018. This included 14,774 patients who were followed for an average of 9.1 years (and up to 40 years) and were matched 1:10 to age- and sex-matched individuals in the general population.

Individuals with anorexia nervosa had a 4.5 times higher risk of dying during the follow-up period compared with individuals in the general population. Psychiatric illnesses were present in 47% of patients with anorexia nervosa, and the presence of these illnesses was associated with a 1.9-fold increased risk of mortality over 10 years compared with the absence of these illnesses. When diagnosed between ages 6 and 25 years, the presence of a psychiatric illness in addition to anorexia nervosa was associated with a 4-fold increased risk of mortality over 10 years.

The risk of mortality was similar by gender. Also, 13.9% of all deaths in patients with anorexia nervosa were due to suicide.

“These findings highlight the critical need for clinicians to recognize additional mental health conditions in adolescents and adults with anorexia,” said lead study author Mette Søeby, a medical student and graduate student at Aarhus University/Aarhus University Hospital.

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