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Anorexia nervosa outcome: six-year controlled longitudinal study of 51 cases including a population cohort.

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University of Göteborg, Sweden.



Controlled study of intermediate term outcome of representative cases with adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa.


A group of 51 cases with anorexia nervosa with a mean age of reported onset of 14.3 years (including a total population of cases from one birth cohort) were compared with a sex-, age-, and school-matched group of 51 comparison subjects on various measures of outcome at a mean age of 21.0 years (6.7 years after reported onset and 4.9 years after the original diagnostic study). There was no attrition. This paper reports on results obtained using the Morgan-Russell scales.


Forty-seven percent of the anorexia nervosa cases reported that they were recovered. In the unrecovered group all aspects of outcome were worse in the anorexia nervosa than in the comparison group. Differences between the two groups were particularly pronounced with regard to aspects of social relationships.


Outcome was fairly similar to that reported in recent clinic-based samples. Poor outcome was associated with the presence of empathy deficits (problems understanding about other people's perspectives and difficulties interacting reciprocally). There is a need to find ways of subgrouping anorexia nervosa cases at onset. The subgroup with empathy deficits warrants more intensive study in future research and clinical practice.

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