Suicide Prevalence and Eating Disorders: A Serious Concern
Trigger warning: This post involves a frank discussion of suicide prevalence among those suffering from various eating disorders.
Suicide prevalence in the eating disorder community is a serious concern. Eating disorders are some of the most lethal forms of mental illness—in the United States alone, one person dies every 52 minutes as a result of eating disorder complications.1 But this high mortality rate is not just a reflection of the various health risks that eating disorders cause. Suicide accounts for many of those deaths as well. In fact, the prevalence of suicide attempts is a tragically common trend among those who suffer from eating disorder behaviors.
The Prevalence of Suicide in Eating Disorder Sufferers
A recent study from the BMC Medical Journal examined the prevalence of suicide attempts in a large, diverse sample of U.S. adults with a lifetime diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Ultimately, the researchers found that the potential for suicide attempts among their volunteer subjects was 5.40 times higher in those with anorexia, 6.33 times higher in those with bulimia, and 4.83 times higher in those with binge eating disorder, compared to those without an active eating disorder history.2
This is obviously a cause for serious concern, but what specific factors can make eating disorder sufferers more vulnerable to attempting suicide? The researchers analyzed that question too. As their findings show, those with a co-occurring mental illness (such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse) on top of the eating disorder are at an even higher risk for suicide. Those who present with early onset eating disorder behaviors in childhood are often more prone to suicidal thoughts or attempts as well.
Socioeconomics can also play a major role in the prevalence of suicide. Those in wealthier income brackets tend to be less vulnerable to suicide attempts than others without the financial resources to access mental health care, the research continues. In many cases, that economic treatment barrier can cause persistent, unabated anxiety, depression, or even hopelessness to worsen until suicide begins to feel like a means of escape. As a result, this could conceivably place eating disorder sufferers from marginalized communities in more imminent danger of suicide attempts overall.
It's Vital to Talk About Suicide Prevalence and Eating Disorders
As all of this data clearly reveals, suicide prevalence in those with eating disorders is a serious concern, but what can be done to help lower these potential risk factors? I am no expert, but I firmly believe that life-saving measures can start to take shape with honest conversations. It is essential to talk about both the systemic and psychological issues that contribute to the alarming prevalence of suicide attempts within the eating disorder community. Without basic awareness, long-term solutions can be hard to implement. I will not claim to have the answers, but I can do my small part and join the dialog.
If you feel that you might hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-8-8 or 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, please see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health resources or help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
- Report: Economic Costs of Eating Disorders. (2021, September 27). STRIPED. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/
Udo, T. (2019, June 25). Suicide attempts in US adults with lifetime DSM-5 eating disorders. BioMed Central. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-019-1352-3#Sec14
Schurrer, M. (2022, September 8). Suicide Prevalence and Eating Disorders: A Serious Concern, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2022/9/suicide-prevalence-and-eating-disorders-a-serious-concern