Context: Morbidity and mortality rates in patients with eating disorders are thought to be high, but exact rates remain to be clarified.
Objective: To systematically compile and analyze the mortality rates in individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
Data sources: A systematic literature search, appraisal, and meta-analysis were conducted of the MEDLINE/PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase databases and 4 full-text collections (ie, ScienceDirect, Ingenta Select, Ovid, and Wiley-Blackwell Interscience).
Study selection: English-language, peer-reviewed articles published between January 1, 1966, and September 30, 2010, that reported mortality rates in patients with eating disorders.
Data extraction: Primary data were extracted as raw numbers or confidence intervals and corrected for years of observation and sample size (ie, person-years of observation). Weighted proportion meta-analysis was used to adjust for study size using the DerSimonian-Laird model to allow for heterogeneity inclusion in the analysis.
Data synthesis: From 143 potentially relevant articles, we found 36 quantitative studies with sufficient data for extraction. The studies reported outcomes of AN during 166 642 person-years, BN during 32 798 person-years, and EDNOS during 22 644 person-years. The weighted mortality rates (ie, deaths per 1000 person-years) were 5.1 for AN, 1.7 for BN, and 3.3 for EDNOS. The standardized mortality ratios were 5.86 for AN, 1.93 for BN, and 1.92 for EDNOS. One in 5 individuals with AN who died had committed suicide.
Conclusions: Individuals with eating disorders have significantly elevated mortality rates, with the highest rates occurring in those with AN. The mortality rates for BN and EDNOS are similar. The study found age at assessment to be a significant predictor of mortality for patients with AN. Further research is needed to identify predictors of mortality in patients with BN and EDNOS.