People with eating disorders, especially those with anorexia nervosa, have an increased risk of death, a new study indicates.
English researchers analysed 36 English-language studies - published between January 2006 and September 2010 - that looked at anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and eating disorders not otherwise specified.
Anorexics mistakenly believe they are fat and deny themselves food. Bulimics overeat and purge, usually by vomiting or using laxatives.
There were a total of 17,272 patients in the studies, which reported 755 deaths. The meta-analysis revealed that for each 1,000 person-years, 5.1 deaths occurred among anorexia patients (1.3 of which were suicide), 1.7 deaths among bulimia patients, and 3.3 deaths among patients with other eating disorders. (A meta-analysis pools and analyses statistical data from different studies investigating similar questions.)
The standardised mortality ratio (the number of actual deaths compared with the number of expected deaths) was 5.86 for anorexia, 1.93 for bulimia, and 1.92 for other eating disorders.
Anorexics in their 20s most at risk
Among anorexia patients, those in their late teens and 20s had a higher death rate than younger patients or those in their 30s, said Jon Arcelus of Leicester General Hospital and colleagues.
The study is published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
While noting that some of the deaths might be attributable to other causes, the authors said that death rates for eating disorders, especially anorexia, are higher than for schizophrenia and depression.
More research is needed to identify the factors that raise risk of death in people with eating disorders, the authors said.
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