Anorexia Death Rate Five Times Higher Than Average

Women (and men) with anorexia nervosa are much more likely to die each year compared to other people.

According to a new eating disorder study, people who are suffering from anorexia nervosa are five times more likely to die each year compared to other people.  The study, which was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, also reported that people with bulimia are twice as likely to die compared to those without an eating disorder.

People with anorexia have a distorted body image that causes them to restrict their diet and over-exercise to reduce their weight to unhealthy levels.  The complications that are associated with the disorder include bone and hair loss, anemia and loss of muscle mass.  The heart, kidneys and gastrointestinal system can be seriously damaged by anorexia.  Death due to malnutrition is another risk of anorexia.

For the study, researchers in the U.K. looked at three dozen previous studies published between 1966 and 2010.  The studies tracked over 17,000 people with eating disorders.  The studies did not record the exact cause of every anorexia-related death, but the health problems associated with the disorder were most likely a major factor.   The study also found that 20% of people with anorexia take their own life.

The American Journal of Psychiatry has previously reported that eating disorders in the U.S. have the highest death rate of any mental illness.  In total, 24 million Americans suffer from some type of eating disorder.  This includes anorexia, which strikes nearly one in every 200 women.   Among teenagers, anorexia is the third most common chronic disease.  Females between 15 and 24 who have anorexia are 12 times more likely to die from the disorder than from any other cause.

Anorexia is a complex disorder that includes both physical and psychiatric symptoms.  Although it involves a preoccupation with food, the roots of the problem are much deeper.  People with anorexia try to control their food intake in order to compensate for overwhelming emotions.  These emotions may be associated with psychiatric problems that can include anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Only one in 10 people who are affected by anorexia ever receive treatment.

Women in the fashion industry as especially susceptible to anorexia.  The NY Daily News recently reported on four fashion models who have died from anorexia in the past few years.  The most famous was Isabelle Caro, who passed away in 2010 at age 28 after struggling with the disorder for more than 15 years.  In 2007, Caro allowed a photograph of herself at 68 pounds to be published as part of a “No Anorexia” public service campaign.  She wanted to use her suffering to convey the message that the danger of extreme thinness is death.