Suicidal behavior in adolescents and adults with bulimia nervosa

Compr Psychiatry. 2014 Oct;55(7):1534-9. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.05.021. Epub 2014 Jun 7.


Background: Recent evidence suggests increased risk for mortality in bulimia nervosa (BN). However, little is yet known about suicidal behavior in BN.

Aims: To examine frequency and correlates of suicidal ideation and attempts in adolescents and adults with BN in two population-based samples.

Method: A total of 10,123 adolescents and 2980 adults in two nationally representative surveys of mental disorder were queried regarding eating disorder symptoms and suicidal ideation and attempts.

Results: Less than 1 percent (0.9%) of adolescents and 1.0% of adults met the criteria for BN. Suicidal ideation was more common among adolescents with BN (53.0%) compared with those with binge eating disorder (BED) (34.4%), other psychopathology (21.3%) or no psychopathology (3.8%). Similar trends emerged for the association between BN and self-reported suicidal plans or attempts. Among adults, suicidality was more common in BN than in the no psychopathology group, but not significantly different from the anorexia nervosa (AN), BED, or other psychopathology subgroups.

Conclusion: There is a high risk of suicidal ideation and behavior among those with BN. These results underscore the importance of addressing suicide risk in adolescents and adults with eating disorder symptoms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / mortality
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / diagnosis
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / mortality
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / mortality
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult