Anorexia and suicide link

Western Australians are being asked to participate in a worldwide genetics study, after new research uncovered links between anorexia nervosa and suicide.

The research, conducted as part of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative, found shared genetic factors were the primary reason for the link.

The study assessed genetic and environmental factors of anorexia, depression, and suicide attempts among 7000 female twins.

University Of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry lead disorders researcher Cynthia Bulik, who is in Perth to recruit participants for the study, said it was vital that people take part.

“Twin studies have shown anorexia nervosa is about 60 per cent heritable,” she said.

“Our research further reveals genetic factors may underpin the co-occurrence of both anorexia nervosa and suicide attempts.”

Participants from the United States, Sweden, Denmark and Australia will be among the 8,000 people who will give blood samples and information for the study.

Christine Morgan, chief executive of the Australian-based Butterfly Foundation, said anorexia nervosa had the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

“One in 10 people with anorexia nervosa will not live for another 10 years, and embedded in that is a very high rate of suicide,” Ms Morgan said.

“If we can find out genetically what the vulnerabilities are then we can be much more targeted in medicines and treatments which may really help to find a solution.”

Tianah, 20, was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 18.

“It’s like having two brains,” she said.

“One part is completely riddled with unhelpful cognitions and thoughts, and the other part is able to rationalise what is healthy and what’s not.

“It’s like a constant battle between those two.”

ANGI has recruited 193 Western Australians, eight per cent of the total 2200 Australian participants. A further 500 participants are being sought from Western Australia.

Males and females aged 14 and above who have experienced, or still have anorexia, can participate in the study by registering at


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