Far from being afflictions seen only in younger women, new research shows that eating disorders affect a surprisingly large number of women over 50. The study, in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, found that 4 percent of women over 50 report binge eating, 8 percent report purging, and more than 70 percent are trying to lose weight.
Overall, 62 percent of the women in the study claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted on their life. The average age of the participants was 59 and 92 percent were white. Although disordered food behaviors were most prevalent in women in their early 50s, they also occurred in women over 75.
Other key findings included:
- 36 percent of the women reported spending at least half their time in the last five years dieting.
- 40 percent weighed themselves several times a week or more.
- 64 percent said that they thought about their weight daily.
- Two-thirds of the women were unhappy with their overall appearance and this was highest (84 percent) when it came to their stomach.
"We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies," said study leader Cynthia Bulik, from the University of North Carolina. "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 bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don't discriminate on the basis of age."
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Source: International Journal of Eating Disorders