Anorexia, Bulemia Significantly Increase Risk of Death

It’s well-known that anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders can be deadly- but the extent to which the diseases have proven to be fatal might surprise you.

A new meta-analysis of three dozen studies done between 1966 and 2010 spanned 17,000 participants, 755 of whom had died. The data indicated that out of every 1,000 people with anorexia, five would die each year. The rate of death among anorexics was measured as five times that of the death risk among comparable individuals in the general population.

Part of the difficulty in parsing the results is the dual nature of the disorders and ultimately, treatment. Jon Arcelus, lead author of the study, commented:

“Of course, eating disorders have serious physical consequences… The study could not identify how people died, but there is no doubt that the reasons behind this are related to the physical problems of the illness.”

The risk of death among people with bulimia and individuals with other forms of disordered eating in the earlier studies was about twice that of the general population. Researchers cited the toll of anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders on the body as one factor that lead to the death risk increase. Another was suicide, which accounted for one in five of the anorexia-related deaths.

Lastly, researchers said that while anorexia and related conditions are both physical and psychiatric in nature, treatment tends to focus on the latter aspect.