Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, the mortality rates reported on those who suffer from eating disorders can vary considerably between studies and sources. Part of the reason why there is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders is because those who suffer from an eating disorder may ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or suicide. Often, the medical complications of death are reported instead of the eating disorder that compromised a person’s health.
According to a study done by colleagues at the American Journal of Psychiatry (2009), crude mortality rates were:
• 4% for anorexia nervosa
• 3.9% for bulimia nervosa
• 5.2% for eating disorder not otherwise specified”
It frustrates me when people act like (or outright say) that anorexia is either the only dangerous eating disorder, or is the most dangerous. EDNOS is by far the most dangerous by every estimate I’ve seen.
The thing with anorexia is that malnutrition is pretty easy to link to the eating disorder. Things like heart failure or internal bleeding from bulimia are a lot harder to link to it, unless the coroner is informed that the patient had an eating disorder, and then is still often not put as the cause of death.
While there is no definitive number of eating disorder-related deaths, all eating disorders are dangerous. Never assume that because you or a loved-one doesn’t have anorexia that you are “safe” or in less danger. You may actually be at higher risk.