What is the deal with anorexia? Part 1

Given the popular image of anorexia – as a disease primarily affecting young women, driven by a social and media environment that makes them excessively concerned about their appearance – it is a bit of a jolt to read that 78% of anorexia fatalities take place among the elderly.

That 78% mortality figure comes from a study at the University of British Columbia that examined the cause of death listed on death certificates.

As this table makes clear, it is NOT actually true that – as the article states – anorexia is “more deadly” among the elderly.


In this study, for example, there were 110% more anorexia fatalities among MEN age 75-84 than among women age 15-24.

But that is misleading because people age 75-84 are dying of all sorts of things, as their overall mortality rate is about 63 times higher than the mortality rate for people aged 15-24. Any fatality among someone 15-24 is out of the ordinary. Thus the table shows that the relative death rate from anorexia – compared to all causes of death –  for women age 15-24 is much higher than it is for the elderly, even though the total number of deaths among, say, elderly men is significantly higher. The total anorexia deaths for elderly women (75+ years of age) is higher still than the rate among elderly men.

The oddity, I suppose, is that there are anorexia deaths among the elderly at all, given that cultural explanations for anorexia suggest there should not be. Why would older men, for instance, be so ravaged by a disease that is purportedly caused by perfectionist ideas of feminine beautymedia images of young female models, and an irresponsible diet industry?

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