An analysis of more than 950,000 women found those with eating disorders were more likely to be convicted of theft and other crimes.
The incidences of theft and other convictions were 12 per cent and seven per cent, respectively, in those with anorexia nervosa, 18 per cent and 13 per cent in those with bulimia nervosa,
and five per cent and six per cent in those without eating disorders.
The associations with theft conviction remained in both anorexia and bulimia nervosa even when adjusting for psychiatric comorbidities and for familial factors.
Researchers say their findings, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, indicate that further studies are needed to investigate the potential mechanisms underlying the
relationship between crime and eating disorders.
They also want to determine how best to address the relationship in treatment.
Study lead author Shuyang Yao, of the Karolinska Institutet, in Sweden, said: "Our results highlight forensic issues as an adversity associated with eating disorders.
"Criminal convictions can compound disease burden and complicate treatment."
She added: "Clinicians should be sure to conduct routine reviews of criminal history during assessments for eating disorders."