The bad news: A new study from Finland reportedly shows that anorexia is about twice as common as researchers have thought, affecting about 5 percent of the population rather than the 1 to 2 percent incidence rate generally quoted. According to the study's authors, this statistic includes mild and/or subclinical cases not usually counted—people (most of them women) who suffered from "mild symptoms" (the news reports don't say what these are).
The good news: According to this study, about 70 percent of anorexics recover. By contrast, the usual statistics say that about a third of anorexics recover fully, a third remain very ill, and another third stay right on the edge, living a sort of half-life. The mortality rate is 20 percent.
The bad news: That 70 percent of women who recover do it "by age 30," says the study. Given that the average of onset for these women is between 15 and 19, that means they're still sick for many years.
One thing I like about the study is that it describes the arc of recovery in a helpful way: "First, lost weight was regained and menstruation resumed. Attitudes about body shape and weight took a much longer time to resolve. The Finnish study was conducted among pairs of female twins. Twins with anorexia nervosa were compared to their healthy co-twins and to healthy women from the general population. Within five years from weight restoration, women with anorexia nervosa were virtually indistinguishable from their healthy co-twins in terms of psychological symptoms and self-esteem. However, learning to deal with body shape and weight related concerns took usually much longer, 5-10 years."
Still too long. But heartening to know that at least studies on anorexia are starting to funnel down the pipeline.