An exploration of the demographic profile of a sample of hospitalised anorexia nervosa patients.
This retrospective exploratory study examined demographic variables in a sample of anorexia nervosa patients hospitalised from January 1987 to December 1996. The researcher undertook an extensive literature review of the history and epidemiology of anorexia nervosa, and found that, while changes in the demography of anorexia nervosa patients are evident in industrialised and developing countries, there is a paucity of equivalent data for South Africa. The archival records of 254 anorectics admitted for the first time to an in-patient tertiary referral centre were reviewed. Descriptive and inferential statistics were computed to determine the demographic profile of the sample, to ascertain changes in demographic variables over the ten-year period of study, and to explore the relationships between these variables. Results reflect the typical anorectic admitted to the hospital of study as a white, female, between the ages 15 to 20, and from the upper to middle social classes. The mean weight at admission for the sample was 39.24 kilograms, while the mean body mass index was 14.78 kilograms/metre2. While no significant increase in admission rates within the ten-year period was found, a marked increase in admission rates is seen when the present study's findings of 254 first admissions over ten years (averaging 25 admissions per year) is compared to a previous study's findings of 54 admissions over a three-year period (averaging 18 admissions per year) at the same institution. Over the ten-year period of study, no significant trends or relationships were found with regard to the following variables: sex; race; age at admission; and socioeconomic status. However, a significant decreasing trend in weight and body mass index was found from 1987 to 1996, and a significant relationship was found between mother's socioeconomic status, and subject's weight and body mass index, respectively. Results also show evidence of an increasing number of males, Indians, children, and individuals over the age of 40 becoming vulnerable to anorexia nervosa. The extent to which these findings are generalisable to a broader-based South African cohort are questionable, due to the fact that the study was conducted in a single setting, and due to the influence of the historical context of the setting.