New epidemiological research suggests the need for a closer examination of the factors that might influence a relationship between eating disorders and risk of criminal behavior.
Conducted in a population of women in Sweden who were tracked from age 15 for up to 20 years, the study found that incidences of criminal conviction for theft and other crimes were higher in women with eating disorders than in women without eating disorders. The prevalence of theft convictions was higher, at 18%, in individuals with bulimia nervosa compared with individuals with anorexia nervosa (12%). The percentage of theft convictions among women without eating disorders was 5%.
The researchers also found that the associations with theft convictions persisted even after results were adjusted for the presence of psychiatric comorbidities.
A news release about the study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, stated, “The findings indicate that research is needed to investigate the potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between crime and eating disorder psychopathology, as well as efforts to determine how best to address this relationship in treatment.”