Short- and long-term outcome of males treated for anorexia nervosa: a review of the literature

  • Christine Strobel
  • Norbert Quadflieg
  • Ulrich Voderholzer
  • Silke Naab
  • Manfred M. FichterEmail author



To give an overview of existing studies on the short- and long-term outcome for males treated for anorexia nervosa and to compare the outcome between adolescents and adults as well as between males and females.


A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO and PSYNDEX and complemented by a manual search of the references from all relevant studies.


Out of 1064 search results, 18 studies met our inclusion criteria. A combined total of 1129 males of varying age groups were followed 0.5–27 years post-treatment. For 1009 individuals, only vital status was ascertained. Length of follow-up and outcome definitions varied considerably. Limited data—especially in adults—prevented adequate age comparisons. In both adolescents and adults outcome and mortality differed widely across studies with no firm evidence for gender differences. Outcome in mixed samples of adolescents and adults was inconsistent. Studies rarely compared the genders statistically, and when they did, the results were nonsignificant.


Knowledge on the outcome of males treated for anorexia nervosa is scarce. Only few studies comprising insufficient numbers of males exist. Results based on these findings are inconclusive and in part contradicting. Further research is needed, including large sample sizes of reliably diagnosed males, adequate follow-up intervals, follow-up assessments with carefully defined outcome criteria, and comparisons to matched female patient samples.

Level of Evidence

Level I, Systematic review.


Short-term Long-term Outcome Males Treated Anorexia nervosa Eating disorder 



We express our gratitude to the Swiss Anorexia Nervosa Foundation (SANS) for its generous support. We also thank Susanne Hedlund, Ph.D., for her thoughtful revisions of the English text (language) and Tessa Pfeiffer, B.Sc., and Jana Taylor, B.Sc., for their contributions in obtaining full text versions of all relevant articles.


This work was supported by Grant no. 51-15 from the Swiss Anorexia Nervosa Foundation (SANS).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no competing interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study informed consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schön Klinik Roseneck Affiliated with the Medical Faculty of the University of Munich (LMU)PrienGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyLudwig-Maximilians-University (LMU)MunichGermany

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