STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Women who suffer from eating disorders are more likely to commit crime, particularly theft, a new study finds.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden examined data from more than 957,000 Swedish women born between 1979 and 1998. The participants were monitored for up to 20 years after turning 15 for diagnoses of either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa and any record of crime.

Sad girl sitting alone on bench
A new study finds that women who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are more likely to commit crime, particularly theft.

The team found that about 12% of women who suffered from anorexia had been convicted of theft, and 7% had records for other crimes. Those diagnosed with bulimia were even higher: 18% had a record of theft and 13% had convictions for other crimes.

Meanwhile, just 5% and 6% of women who didn’t suffer from eating disorders had been convicted of theft and other crimes, respectively.

“Our results highlight forensic issues as an adversity associated with eating disorders. Criminal convictions can compound disease burden and complicate treatment ,” says Shuyang Yao, lead author of the study, in a press release. “Clinicians should be sure to conduct routine reviews of criminal history during assessments for eating disorders.”

Because the findings were observational, the authors believe more research is needed to indicate the specific cause-and-effect relationship between eating disorders and crime. Once those findings are conclusive, doctors and clinicians can look into appropriate means of treatment for patients to minimize the risk of participating in a crime.

The study was published today in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

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