Higher Than Expected Eating Disorders Prevalence in Teens

Eating disorders correlate with other psychiatric disorders, role impairment, and suicidality

TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Eating disorders and subthreshold eating conditions are prevalent in the general adolescent population and are associated with other psychiatric disorders, role impairment, and suicidality, according to a study published online March 7 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Sonja A. Swanson, from the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues examined the prevalence and correlates of eating disorders and subthreshold eating conditions in a nationally representative sample of 10,123 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years. Participants were surveyed in face-to-face interviews using a version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

The investigators found that anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder had a lifetime prevalence of 0.3, 0.9, and 1.6 percent, respectively. Subthreshold anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorders were also often clinically significant. The eating disorder subtypes strongly differed with respect to sociodemographic correlates, role impairment, comorbidity with other mental disorders, and suicidal tendency. The majority of adolescents with these disorders sought treatment, but only a minority were treated for their eating or weight problems.

"This study provides key information concerning the epidemiology of eating disorders in the U.S. adolescent population. The prevalence of these disorders is higher than previously expected in this age range, and the patterns of comorbidity, role impairment, and suicidality indicate that eating disorders represent a major public health concern," the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties with a number of pharmaceutical companies. Another author disclosed a financial relationship with Guilford Press.

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