Eating Disorder Mortality Rates


While we may chide others about their eating habits, what we don’t know is that they may be hiding or suffering from one of the several eating disorders. Those afflicted by any one of the many disorders experience extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors when it comes to weight and food issues. What should be made painfully clear is that these problems have life-threatening consequences. This is one of the reasons many advocates are continuously raising the issue in order to help those who are suffering.

The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders put out by the American Psychiatric Association summarizes feeding and eating disorders into the following:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – inadequate food intake leading to weight that is too low; intense fear of gaining weight; obsession with weight; persistent behavior when it comes to preventing weight gain.
  • Binge Eating Disorder – consumption of large amounts of food without behaviors to prevent weight gain like self-induced vomiting.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – consumption of large amounts of food followed by behaviors preventing weight gain like self-induced vomiting.
  • Others – these are feeding and eating disorders that cause significant stress but don’t meet the criteria for feeding and eating disorders.

Mortality Rate

Research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric disorders. The chronic nature of anorexia further complicates matters: patients may progress through treatment but they frequently have malnutrition relapses which have life-threatening and destructive complications.

Steinhausen, in The outcome of anorexia nervosa in the 20th century published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, looked into 119 studies published in English and German that covered more than 5,000 patients suffering from anorexia. The studies were analyzed for global outcome, mortality and other psychiatric disorders and the results indicate the mortality rate was significantly higher. Less than one-half of those who survived recovered, one-third improved and 20% remained chronically ill.

Another study confirmed that the mortality rate associated with anorexia is twelve times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death among females between the ages of 15 to 24.

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders also reported the following statistics:

  • Five to ten percent of those suffering from anorexia die within 10 years while 18 to 20% die after 20 years.
  • Up to 20% of people with a serious eating disorder die without treatment. The mortality rate falls to 2-3% with treatment.

Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Among adolescents, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness.
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.
  • 80% of all children have been on a diet by the time they are in fourth grade, according to Time magazine.
  • 86% of people report the onset of an eating disorder by age 20 while 10% report an onset at 10 years or younger.

We live in a very image conscious society – one that seems to put pressure on young children to conform to a certain image. Understanding and addressing problems associated with eating and feeding disorders as early as possible can save lives.