Sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of eating disorder patients treated in the specialized residential settings in Belgium.
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INTRODUCTION: Epidemiologic information on sociodemographic and clinical characteristics in eating disorders in Western European countries are scarce. PURPOSE: In this study, we report demographic and clinical characteristics of eating disorder (ED) patients undergoing treatment in five specialized ED centers in Flanders (Belgium). METHOD: Data from 642 ED patients were collected by means of a structured questionnaire. RESULTS: Data show that 93.8% of patients are female, with an average age of 22.6 years. The largest subgroup in our sample suffers from anorexia nervosa, namely 52.8%. Bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED) and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) account for 17.7%, 10.7% and 18.8% of the sample, respectively. Mean age of onset was 17 years. Mean duration of illness was 5.6 years, but 20.2% of patients had their illness for over 8 years. Anorexia nervosa patients of the restricting type (AN-R) have the shortest duration of illness. BED patients stood out because they were older on average, more often in a relationship and more often in ambulatory treatment. 70% of patients over 20 years old completed higher education, but one-third of this group was unemployed and/or disabled. Remarkably, ED patients grow more up in intact families compared to the general population. CONCLUSIONS: Epidemiology of ED patients in treatment in Flanders (Belgium) seems to resemble worldwide findings. The long duration of illness, the common evolution towards chronicity and the early work impairment underline the severe personal and societal impact of ED and call to the need for early detection and treatment of these patients. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level V: cross-sectional descriptive study.
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