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Can You Die From Being Underweight?

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
is it healthy if im 17 and im 92 pounds? people/friends say i could die from it.....but idk if thats possible
Signed: Can You Die From Being Underweight?

Dear Can You Die From Being Underweight?,


It would be impossible to know if 92 pounds is a healthy weight for you without knowing how tall you are, viewing your frame and having an understanding of your medical background. The best way to get an accurate determination as to whether or not you are at a healthy weight is to visit your primary care physician.


However, if we just go by the calculating BMI using height, weight and age, according to a BMI calculator, if you are 5’2” or over, you are considered to be underweight. If this is the case, the recommendation would be for you to see a medical professional so he/she can assess why you are underweight – whether there is some underlying medical and/or mental health illness.


If you are intentionally restricting your caloric intake, over-exercising, or using any other potentially damaging means to maintain this weight, it is recommended that you meet with a doctor, as well as a mental health professional, as there would be a good chance that you have an eating disorder that requires treatment.


As for your question about whether or not someone can die from being underweight, it is absolutely possible. A recent study found that there are over 34,000 excess deaths per year related to being underweight (classified in the study as having a BMI of 18.5 or less). People can be underweight for a variety of reasons – mental health issues, such as anorexia; physical health issues, such as people suffering from COPD; or environmental issues, such as people living in poverty conditions where there is limited access to food and water. But no matter what the reason is for being underweight, there is a greater risk of death than for someone who is in a healthy weight range.


Anorexics who do not receive treatment are in real physical danger – between and 5% and 20% of people with the disease eventually die from it. Damage occurs to the bones and heart, and the immune system is significantly weakened – all of which can contribute to death. For a more complete understanding you can read the WedMd webpage Anorexia: The Body Neglected.


Consider the following resources if you have reason to believe you may be underweight, if you are 5’2” or over, and/or if you think you may have an eating disorder:

·         If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

·         If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 973-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

·         You can also contact the Eating Disorders Program at Atlantic Health at 908-522-5757 for more information and to set up an evaluation.

·         You can also contact the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 for more information and referral services.

Signed: TeenHealthFX