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Eating disorders and mortality rates
All eating disorders come with severe medical complications and increased mortality rates. The risk of premature death is increased for people with all types of eating disorders.
- The risk of premature death for women with Anorexia Nervosa is 6-12 times higher than the general population
- The risk of premature death for women with Anorexia Nervosa is ‘much higher’ than other psychiatric disorders
- For females with Anorexia Nervosa and diabetes, there is a 15.7-fold increase in mortality rates when compared with females with diabetes alone
Eating disorders and suicide
The risk of premature death in people with eating disorders relates in part to medical complications associated with the disorder; however suicide has also been identified as a major cause of death in people with eating disorders.
- Research shows that 1 in 5 individuals with Anorexia Nervosa who died prematurely had committed suicide
- Research on suicide in people with Bulimia Nervosa and EDNOS is less available; however, suicide attempts have been identified in people with Bulimia Nervosa.
Eating disorders and adolescents
Eating disorders commonly affect young people. Eating disorders can occur in people as young as 7 or as old as 70; however evidence shows that adolescents and young people are increasingly at risk.
- Eating disorders represent the third most common chronic illness for young females
- Eating disorders represent the second leading cause of mental disorder disability for young females
- Adolescents with diabetes may have a 2.4-fold higher risk of developing an eating disorder
- Adolescent girls who diet at a severe level are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within 6 months. This risk increases to a 1 in 5 chance over 12 months.
Studies of body dissatisfaction in adolescence have found varying but consistently high levels:
- 70% of adolescent girls have body dissatisfaction
- Body dissatisfaction is identified in the Mission Australia Youth Survey (2010) as the top ranked issue of concern for young people.
Eating disorders and obesity
The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) observed that “obesity and eating disorders are not opposite ends of the same spectrum”. Obesity and eating disorders may be viewed as occurring at the same end of a spectrum with healthy beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours at one end, and problematic beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours (and ultimately syndromes) at the other end. Among the variety of weight- and eating-related problems, there are some separate and some overlapping protective, risk and maintaining factors.
- Obesity in adolescents has increased by 75% in the past three decades
- The development of co-morbid obesity with eating disorder behaviours has increased at a faster rate than that of either obesity or eating disorders alone.
- Adolescent girls with obesity have high rates of disordered eating
- One in five people with obesity also present with disordered eating, mainly in the form of binge eating, but also evident in episodes of strict dieting and purging
The long term health consequences of eating disorders
The consequences of an eating disorder are not limited to acute episodes of illness but may also be long term.
- Research shows that only 46% of patients fully recovered from Anorexia Nervosa while 20% remained chronically ill for the long term.
- Research into Binge Eating Disorder has identified that this disorder is more common than Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa and is at least as chronic and stable as these disorders
The financial consequences of eating disorders
The cost of care for a person with an eating disorder is substantial. Eating disorders are the 12th leading cause of mental health hospitalisation costs within Australia. The expense of treatment of an episode of Anorexia Nervosa has been reported to come second only to the cost of cardiac artery bypass surgery in the private hospital sector in Australia.
Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa are the 8th and 10th leading causes, respectively, of burden of disease and injury in females aged 15 to 24 in Australia. This is measured by disability-adjusted life years.