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Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;198(4):295-301. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.081356.

Childhood eating disorders: British national surveillance study.

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Department of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, London, WC1N 3JH, UK.

Erratum in

  • Br J Psychiatry. 2011 May;198(5):410.



The incidence of eating disorders appears stable overall, but may be increasing in younger age groups. Data on incidence, clinical features and outcome of early-onset eating disorders are sparse.


To identify new cases of early-onset eating disorders (<13 years) presenting to secondary care over 1 year and to describe clinical features, management and 1-year outcomes.


Surveillance over 14 months through the established British Paediatric Surveillance System, and a novel child and adolescent psychiatry surveillance system set up for this purpose.


Overall incidence was 3.01/100,000 (208 individuals). In total, 37% met criteria for anorexia nervosa; 1.4% for bulimia nervosa; and 43% for eating disorder not otherwise specified. Nineteen per cent showed determined food avoidance and underweight without weight/shape concerns. Rates of comorbidity were 41%; family history of psychiatric disorder 44%; and early feeding difficulties 21%. Time to presentation was >8 months. A total of 50% were admitted to hospital, typically soon after diagnosis. Outcome data were available for 76% of individuals. At 1 year, 73% were reported improved, 6% worse and 10% unchanged (11% unknown). Most were still in treatment, and seven were hospital in-patients for most of the year.


Childhood eating disorders represent a significant clinical burden to paediatric and mental health services. Efforts to improve early detection are needed. These data provide a baseline to monitor changing trends in incidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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