Anorexia nervosa risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Kiran Singh, M.D. [2]


Risk factors for anorexia nervosa include first-degree biological relatives with the disorder, anxiety disorder and obsessional traits in childhood, and negative self image among others.[1] A recent epidemiological study of 989,871 Swedish residents indicated that gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status were large influences on the chance of developing anorexia, with those with non-European parents among the least likely to be diagnosed with the condition, and those in wealthy, white families being most at risk.[2]

Risk factors

  • Female gender
  • White ethnicity
  • High socio-economic status
  • Being more worried about, or paying more attention to weight and shape
  • Certain social or cultural ideas about health and beauty
  • First-degree biological relatives of individuals with the disorder[1]
  • Having a negative self-image
  • Having an anxiety disorder as a child
  • Having eating problems during infancy or early childhood
  • Monozygotic twins[1]
  • Obsessional traits in childhood[1]
  • Occupations and avocations that encourage thinness[1]
  • Elite athletics[1]
  • Trying to be perfect or overly focused on rules


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.
  2. Lindberg L, Hjern A. (2003) Risk factors for anorexia nervosa: a national cohort study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 34 (4), 397-408. PMID 14566927