The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative: Study description and sample characteristics of the Australian and New Zealand arm

Katherine M Kirk, Felicity C Martin, Amy Mao, Richard Parker, Sarah Maguire, Laura Thornton, Gu Zhu, Kerrie McAloney, Jeremy L Freeman, Phillipa Hay, Sloane Madden, Christine Morgan, Janice Russell, Susan M Sawyer, Elizabeth Hughes, Alicia Fairweather-Schmidt, Anthea Fursland, Julie McCormack, Fiona Wagg, Jennifer JordanMartin A Kennedy, Warren Ward, Tracey Wade, Cynthia M Bulik, Nicholas Martin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: Anorexia nervosa is a severe psychiatric disorder with high mortality rates. While its aetiology is poorly understood, there is evidence of a significant genetic component. The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative is an international collaboration which aims to understand the genetic basis of the disorder. This paper describes the recruitment and characteristics of the Australasian Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative sample, the largest sample of individuals with anorexia nervosa ever assembled across Australia and New Zealand. Methods: Participants completed an online questionnaire based on the Structured Clinical Interview Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV) eating disorders section. Participants who met specified case criteria for lifetime anorexia nervosa were requested to provide a DNA sample for genetic analysis. Results: Overall, the study recruited 3414 Australians and 543 New Zealanders meeting the lifetime anorexia nervosa case criteria by using a variety of conventional and social media recruitment methods. At the time of questionnaire completion, 28% had a body mass index ≤ 18.5 kg/m 2 . Fasting and exercise were the most commonly employed methods of weight control, and were associated with the youngest reported ages of onset. At the time of the study, 32% of participants meeting lifetime anorexia nervosa case criteria were under the care of a medical practitioner; those with current body mass index < 18.5 kg/m 2 were more likely to be currently receiving medical care (56%) than those with current body mass index ≥ 18.5 kg/m 2 (23%). Professional treatment for eating disorders was most likely to have been received from general practitioners (45% of study participants), dietitians (42%) and outpatient programmes (42%). Conclusions: This study was effective in assembling the largest community sample of people with lifetime anorexia nervosa in Australia and New Zealand to date. The proportion of people with anorexia nervosa currently receiving medical care, and the most common sources of treatment accessed, indicates the importance of training for general practitioners and dietitians in treating anorexia nervosa.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)583-594
    Number of pages12
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Anorexia nervosa
    • eating disorder
    • genome-wide association study
    • recruitment


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