Duration of illness predicts outcome for bulimia nervosa: a long-term follow-up study

Int J Eat Disord. 2000 May;27(4):428-34. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(200005)27:4<428::aid-eat7>3.0.co;2-y.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate long-term outcome and prognosis in a bulimic and subthreshold bulimic sample.

Method: In a follow-up study, 44 patients diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and subthreshold bulimia nervosa were contacted after an average follow-up period of 9 years.

Results: Results revealed that 72.7% (n = 32) of the participants were recovered at the time of follow-up. An investigation of prognostic variables showed that good outcome was associated with a shorter duration of illness, which was defined as the time between onset of symptoms and first treatment intervention. If participants were initially treated within the first few years of the illness, the probability of recovery was above 80%. However, if they were initially treated 15 years or more after the onset of the illness, the probability of recovery fell below 20%.

Discussion: This finding suggests that early identification of bulimia nervosa may be a very important factor in preventing a chronic eating disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bulimia / diagnosis
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome