Unfavorable Outcomes Common in Childhood Anorexia Nervosa

woman with anorexia sitting on bed
woman with anorexia sitting on bed
Adolescents who develop anorexia nervosa before the age of 14 have a higher risk of unfavorable outcomes.

HealthDay News — Anorexia nervosa (AN) that develops before age 14 often leads to unfavorable outcomes, according to a study published online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, MD, from University Clinics RWTH Aachen in Germany, and colleagues followed up with 52 former pediatric patients (mean age, 12.5 [SD 1.0]) diagnosed with early-onset AN who had been treated at German university hospitals. Each participant had a personal examination after an average of 7.5 years.

The researchers found that 41% of the participants had a good outcome, while 35% had intermediate outcomes, and 24% had poor outcomes. Twenty-eight percent of respondents met the DSM-IV criteria for a current non-eating disorder psychiatric disorder, and 64% met the criteria for a previous non-eating disorder psychiatric disorder. AN outcomes were strongly associated with mental-health-related quality of life and eating disorder-specific psychopathology. The only significant positive indicator of outcome was a higher weight at admission.

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“Childhood AN is a serious disorder with an unfavorable course in many patients and high rates of chronicity and psychiatric comorbidity in young adulthood,” the authors write. “Early detection and intervention are urgently needed.”


Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Dempfle A, Egberts KM, et al. Outcome of childhood anorexia nervosa- the results of a five-to ten-year follow-up study [published online February 16, 2018. J Int Eat Disord. doi:10.1002/eat.22840