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Better prognosis for young anorexia nervosa sufferers

The prospects for young women with anorexia nervosa have improved considerably over the past decade, according to a new study carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in conjunction with the National Board of Health and Welfare's Epidemiological Centre, Sweden. However, despite these positive signs, the disease still has long-lasting consequences for many patients.

Most follow-up studies of patients with anorexia nervosa paint a very gloomy picture of its long-term prognoses. Now, however, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have presented more up-to-date - and more positive - findings.

According to their most recent study, the long-term morbidity rates of women who were treated for anorexia nervosa at a young age have decreased dramatically over the past decade. Moreover, former patients do not suffer psychiatric problems as often as was reported in earlier studies.

The researchers believe that the positive trend is attributable to the investments in specialist anorexia care that were made in Swedish psychiatry in the 1990s. It is also possible that doctors have become better at dealing with the acute malnutrition that anorexia sufferers sometimes develop.

But the present study also shows that almost nine per cent of women who underwent the follow-up had received psychiatric care at some time during a three-year period and that just over 20 per cent were dependent on social welfare for a given year. The figures, which are much higher than for the rest of the population, suggest that anorexia nervosa is still a disease that entails long-term difficulties for many sufferers.

The study included all female Swedes who were admitted to hospital at some time between 1987 and 1992 for anorexia nervosa when at the age of 10 to 24. Using the national register, the researchers were able to study how the group's health, socio-economic and social circumstances changed from admission to 9 to 14 years on.

The picture they have built up adds to a number of other studies that the same research group has published this year. One such study shows that anorexia nervosa does not increase the risks associated with childbirth later in life; another study shows that men who developed the disease earlier in life do not, for some reason, suffer psychiatric problems as often as women in the same situation.


"Outcome and prognostic factors for adolescent female in-patients with anorexia nervosa: 9- to 14-year follow-up"
Anders Hjern, Lene Lindberg and Frank Lindblad
British journal of psychiatry (2006), Vol. 189, 428-432
"Anorexia in young men - a cohort study"
Frank Lindblad, Lene Lindberg and Anders Hjern
International Journal of Eating Disorders (2006), Vol. 39, 662-6
"Improved survival in adolescent patients with anorexia nervosa - a comparison of two Swedish national cohorts of female in-patients"
Frank Lindblad, Lene Lindberg and Anders Hjern
American Journal of Psychiatry (2006), Vol. 163, 1433-5
"Pregnancy and delivery outcomes in women with anorexia nervosa"
Cecilia Ekéus, Lene Lindberg, Frank Lindblad and Anders Hjern
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2006), Vol. 113, 925-9

For further information, please contact: Anders Hjern Epidemiological Centre, National Board of Health and Welfare Phone: +46 (0)8-555 531 69 or +46 (0)70- 491 12 33 (mobile) E-mail: Frank Lindblad Department of Psychosocial Medicine, Karolinska Institutet Phone: +46 (0)8-524 820 61 or +46 (0)70 566 56 67 (mobile) E-mail: Lene Lindberg Phone: Centre for Public Health, Stockholm County Health Authorities E-mail: +46 (0)8-737 36 07 or +46 (0)70-484 56 91 (mobile) Karolinska Institutet Press Officer: Katarina Sternudd Phone: +46 (0)8-524 828 95 E-mail:

Katarina Sternudd | idw
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