Anorexia Nervosa Mortality in Northeast Scotland, 1965–1999

Millar, H. R., Wardell, Fiona, Vyvyan, Juliet, Naji, Simon Alexander, Prescott, Gordon orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9156-2361 and Eagles, John (2005) Anorexia Nervosa Mortality in Northeast Scotland, 1965–1999. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162 (4). pp. 753-757. ISSN 0002-953X

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OBJECTIVE: Most previous studies of mortality in anorexia nervosa patients have shown an increased risk of premature death but have been limited by methodological constraints. This study aimed to overcome some of these constraints by having a large original sample size, diagnosis confirmed by case note review, a long duration of follow-up, and a clear base population. METHOD: The authors identified 524 anorexia nervosa cases seen in specialist services in Northeast Scotland; anorexia nervosa diagnosis was confirmed by scrutinizing case notes. Those who had died were identified from the National Health Service register or register of deaths. The death rates and causes of death were analyzed. RESULTS: Twenty-three patients died, giving a crude death rate of 4.4% and a standardized mortality rate of 3.3 (95% CI=2.2–4.9). In only one-third of the cases was anorexia nervosa on the death certificate, but an eating disorder or other psychiatric pathology probably contributed to several of the other deaths. Older age at the time the patient was seen at the specialist service was the only identifiable risk factor in the group of patients who died. The median length of time between diagnosis and death was 11 years. CONCLUSIONS: Anorexia nervosa is associated with increased risk of premature death. It is possible that death rates could be reduced by early diagnosis and by long-term specialist care.

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