Background: Little is known about the long-term outcome of anorexia nervosa.
Aims: To study the 30-year outcome of adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa.
Method: All 4291 individuals born in 1970 and attending eighth grade in 1985 in Gothenburg, Sweden were screened for anorexia nervosa. A total of 24 individuals (age cohort for anorexia nervosa) were pooled with 27 individuals with anorexia nervosa (identified through community screening) who were born in 1969 and 1971-1974. The 51 individuals with anorexia nervosa and 51 school- and gender-matched controls were followed prospectively and examined at mean ages of 16, 21, 24, 32 and 44. Psychiatric disorders, health-related quality of life and general outcome were assessed.
Results: At the 30-year follow-up 96% of participants agreed to participate. There was no mortality. Of the participants, 19% had an eating disorder diagnosis (6% anorexia nervosa, 2% binge-eating disorder, 11% other specified feeding or eating disorder); 38% had other psychiatric diagnoses; and 64% had full eating disorder symptom recovery, i.e. free of all eating disorder criteria for 6 consecutive months. During the elapsed 30 years, participants had an eating disorder for 10 years, on average, and 23% did not receive psychiatric treatment. Good outcome was predicted by later age at onset among individuals with adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa and premorbid perfectionism.
Conclusions: This long-term follow-up study reflects the course of adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa and has shown a favourable outcome regarding mortality and full symptom recovery. However, one in five had a chronic eating disorder.
Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; case–control; outcome; population based.