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Early Warning Signs May Predate Eating Disorder Onset

Those with disorders have higher rates of other conditions, Rx years before diagnosis

woman weighing self

MONDAY, July 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Early warning signs may help providers identify eating disorders earlier, according to a study published online July 1 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Joanne C. Demmler, Ph.D., from Swansea University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues used linked electronic health records from general practitioner and hospital admissions between 1990 and 2017 in Wales to examine the burden of eating disorders in the population in terms of incidence, comorbidities, and survival.

The researchers found that during the study period, 15,558 patients were diagnosed as having an eating disorder. The peak for incidence (24 per 100,000 people) was in 2003 to 2004. There were higher levels of other mental disorders (odds ratio [OR], 4.32) and external causes of morbidity and mortality (OR, 2.92) among people diagnosed with eating disorders. Before diagnosis of eating disorders, patients had a higher rate of prescriptions for central nervous system drugs (OR, 3.15), gastrointestinal drugs (OR, 2.61), and dietetic drugs (OR, 2.42). Three years after diagnosis, patients continued to have a greater number of diagnoses and prescriptions. Compared with controls, mortality was higher for some with eating disorders, particularly women with anorexia nervosa.

"Incidence of diagnosed eating disorders is relatively low in the population but there is a major longer-term burden both in morbidity and mortality to the individual," the authors write.

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