Published in

Cambridge University Press, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, (29), 2020

DOI: 10.1017/s2045796020000451



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Risk of eating disorders in international adoptees: a cohort study using Swedish national population registers

This paper was not found in any repository, but could be made available legally by the author.
This paper was not found in any repository, but could be made available legally by the author.

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Abstract Aims Compared to the general population, adoptees are more often referred to specialist psychiatric treatment, exhibit increased risk of suicide and display more symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity-disorder. However, little is known about the impact of being an adoptee on the risk of developing an eating disorder. The aim of the present study was to assess whether international adoptees have a higher risk for eating disorders than native Swedes. Methods In the present retrospective cohort study, data from the Swedish total population registers on individuals born between 1979 and 2005 were used to assess whether international adoptees residing in Sweden (n = 25 287) have a higher risk for anorexia nervosa (AN) and other eating disorders (OED) than non-adoptees with Swedish-born parents from the general population (n = 2 046 835). The patterns of these results were compared to those for major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety disorders to determine whether any observed effects were unique to eating disorders or reflected a more general impact on mental health outcomes. Results A survival analysis adjusting for relevant demographic covariates revealed an elevated risk of all examined psychiatric disorders in international adoptees: hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) are 1.21 (1.04–1.41) for AN, 1.60 (1.44–1.79) for OED, 1.90 (1.81–2.00) for MDD, 1.25 (1.09–1.44) for OCD, and 1.69 (1.60–1.78) for anxiety disorders. Conclusions Elevated risk of eating disorders as well as of MDD, OCD, and anxiety disorders was found in international adoptees. A parallel pattern between AN and OCD was observed, which both display less elevated rates than the other diagnoses. A considerable number of biological, environmental, and societal factors have been suggested to explain the observed differences in mental health between adoptees and non-adoptees, but they remain primarily theoretical.