Hot off the press: Assessing the risk of non-suicidal self-injury in individuals with eating disorders (Booij Lab)

December 5, 2023

Dr. Linda Booij (Eating Disorders Continuum) and colleagues have just published a meta-analysis in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. The article, entitled “Non-suicidal self-injury among individuals with an eating disorder: A systematic review and prevalence meta-analysis,” is authored by Ryan H. Kirkpatrick, Dr. Édith Breton, Aleksandar Biorac, Dr. Douglas P. Munoz, and Dr. Linda Booij. The meta-analysis reviews existing literature to determine how common non-suicidal self-injuries (e.g., cutting, burning or hitting oneself) are among people who have an eating disorder.


Overview of the study

The team conducted a meta-analysis that looked at studies published until September 2023 that involved people with an eating disorder and measured non-suicidal self-injury outcomes. In total, the authors identified and analyzed 79 studies, which collectively included over 32,000 individuals with an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, other specified feeding or eating disorder).

They found that around one-third of people with eating disorders had engaged in non-suicidal self-injury at some point in their lives. One of the main findings of the study was that, although the specific prevalence varied between 21% and 42% depending on someone’s specific diagnosis, non-suicidal self-injury was seen in people with all types of eating disorders.

Thus, the presence of self-injurious behaviours did not depend on whether people engaged in binge-eating, used purging methods such as vomiting or misuse of laxatives, and/or restricted their food intake, and neither was it influenced by body weight or age.

The study highlights the importance of keeping an eye out for self-injurious behaviours in all people with eating disorders, no matter which specific symptoms of eating disorders someone has or how old the person is. While the authors note that the method for assessing self-injury varied across the analyzed studies, which might affect the results of this study, this meta-analysis brings together the results of many different studies to highlight the prevalence of non-suicidal self-injury in people with eating disorders.