Eating Disorders Increasingly Common for Women Over 50

By  |  18 Comments Staff Writer

Eating disorders are no longer just  a concern for teens and young adults according to a new report. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 62 percent of women age 50 and older say that their weight or shape has had a negative impact on their lives.

Seventy-nine percent said that it affected their self-perception and 64 percent said that they thought about it daily.

The study was performed by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and led by Cynthia Bulik, PhD.

“We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies,” said Bulik, director of the Eating Disorders Program at UNC. “An unfortunate assumption is that they ‘grow out of’ body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, but no one has really bothered to ask. Since most research focuses on younger women our goal was to capture the concerns of women in this age range to inform future research and service planning.”

The average age of the participants was 59, and  92 percent of the women were white.

About 8 percent of women reported purging in the last five years and 3.5 percent reported binge eating in the last month. These behaviors were most prevalent in women in their early 50s, but also occurred in women over 75.

“The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don’t discriminate on the basis of age,” Bulik said. “Health care providers should remain alert for eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns that may adversely influence women’s physical and psychological wellbeing as they mature.”


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