Suicide and eating disorders: some statistics

Today, I am summarising some statistics for you (it’s world suicide prevention day).

Each of these statistics represents someone who might be enjoying a full life right now if they had received early diagnosis and evidence-based treatment. I sincerely hope that in ten years’ time the statistics will be very different.

The suicide risk is several times higher among those with an eating disorder

Here is chart I created from results published by Crowe et al 2009

Crow et al 2009 Increased suicide death for each eating disorder

Reference: Increased mortality in bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. Crow SJ1, Peterson CB, Swanson SA, Raymond NC, Specker S, Eckert ED, Mitchell J Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Dec;166(12):1342-6.

And here’s another chart I created from Swansson et al 2011 In grey: those without an eating disorder. Every other colour: some kind of eating disorder.

Swanson et al suicidality

The above how I charted results from a study of 10,123 US females aged 13 to 16. Includes “sub-threshold” diagnosis ( in other words, many of those whose behaviours or mental state are similar to those who would have been diagnosed with an eating disorder under DSM-IV, and who nowadays would probably get diagnosed under DSM-5).
Reference: Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in adolescents. Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. Swanson SA, Crow SJ, Le Grange D, Swendsen J, Merikangas KR. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011 Jul; 68(7):714-23.

Note that all statistics are likely to give us underestimates. There are likely to be many more suicides that are not registered as suicides, or not registered as due to an eating disorder, but to, say, depression. Also, males are not represented here.

Take-home message:

If your country is funding suicide prevention and making policy for suicide prevention, it needs to fund and make policy to treat eating disorders.

For more statistics on eating disorders

I find this talk by Professor Daniel Le Grange particularly good. My charts come from the papers he quoted there, 9 minutes into the video.

Note: if you’d like to copy the two charts above, without changing them, that’s fine with me. 

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4 thoughts on “Suicide and eating disorders: some statistics

  1. Dear Eva,

    This is a fantastic graphic depiction of the terrible pain of eating disorders in adolescents. Thank you for producing this graph and blog.

    Warmly, Shan

    • Thank you, Shan. You’re a thorough researcher and it’s great to have your approval here.

  2. Ann said:

    My anorexic daughter has made 2 serious attempts to end her life, and she has self harmed extensively. Supporting her through depression is more difficult than supporting her to eat – which thanks to Eva and Vincent Square I am better able to do. Its been a difficult year for my daughter.

    • And a horrible year for the whole family, no doubt. I am so sorry. I am glad that you’ve found treatment that is working for you at Vincent Square Eating Disorder Service and I am glad if I’ve helped you support your daughter.

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