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Anorexia Outcomes May Be Better Than Thought

Finnish study shows that most patients recover within five years, regardless of treatment

FRIDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Among young Finnish women, anorexia nervosa is a common but usually transient condition. About two-thirds of patients experience a full recovery within five years of symptom onset, according to a report published in the August issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Anna Keski-Rahkonen, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues analyzed data on 2,881 women from the 1975-1979 birth cohorts of Finnish twins and compared outcomes between 292 twins with eating disorders, 134 of their female co-twins without eating disorders, and 210 controls without eating disorders.

The researchers found a 2.2 percent lifetime prevalence of anorexia nervosa, with an incidence of 270 per 100,000 person-years in women aged 15 to 19. Although the Finnish health care system detected only half of the cases, the five-year recovery rate was 66.8 percent among detected and undetected cases.

"In this population study, the incidences of DSM-IV and broad anorexia nervosa were much higher than rates reported previously," the authors conclude. "The five-year clinical recovery rates were higher than those reported in most previous studies. Nonetheless, the burden of illness was remarkable. After clinical recovery, the residua of illness steadily receded: women closely resembled their unaffected co-twins on most measures after five years in clinical recovery, which demonstrates that full psychological recovery is both possible and likely."

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