Predictors of illness course and health maintenance following inpatient treatment among patients with anorexia nervosa

Glasofer, Deborah R.; Muratore, Alexandra F.; Attia, Evelyn; Wu, Peng; Wang, Yuanjia; Minkoff, Hillary; Rufin, Teresa; Walsh, B. T.; Steinglass, Joanna E.

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a life-threatening psychiatric disorder associated with significant medical and psychosocial impairment. Hospital-based behavioral treatment is an effective intervention in the short-term. However, relapse rates following discharge are high and thus, there is a need to identify predictors of longitudinal outcome. The current study provides information regarding illness course and health maintenance among patients with AN over 5 years following discharge from an eating disorder inpatient unit.

Participants were individuals with AN who were discharged from a specialized, inpatient behaviorally-based unit. Prior to discharge, height and weight were measured and participants completed self-report measures of eating disorder severity and general psychopathology (depression, anxiety, harm avoidance). Participants were contacted annually for self-report measures of weight, eating disorder severity and clinical impairment. Outcome was defined by illness course (body mass index (BMI) and clinical impairment during the 5 years) and health maintenance (categories of weight and eating disorder symptom severity) across follow-up, using all available data. Linear mixed models were used to examine whether demographic and clinical parameters at discharge predicted BMI and clinical impairment over time. Additional analyses examined whether these variables significantly influenced an individual’s likelihood of maintaining inpatient treatment gains.

One-hundred and sixty-eight individuals contributed data. Higher trait anxiety at discharge was associated with a lower BMI during follow-up (p = 0.012). There was a significant interaction between duration of illness and time, whereby duration of illness was associated with a faster rate of weight loss (p = 0.003) during follow-up. As duration of illness increased, there was a greater increase in self-reported clinical impairment (p = 0.011). Increased eating disorder severity at discharge was also associated with greater clinical impairment at follow-up (p = 0.004). Higher BMI at discharge was significantly associated with maintaining healthy weight across a priori BMI-based definitions of health maintenance.

Weight status (higher BMI) and duration of illness are key factors in the prognosis of AN. Higher weight targets in intensive treatments may be of value in improving outcomes.


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Also Published In

Journal of Eating Disorders

More About This Work

Published Here
December 20, 2022


Anorexia nervosa, Longitudinal study, Inpatients, Outcome, Body mass index, Duration of illness, Time course, Prognosis