Research shows that older women are much more likely to have an eating disorder than previously thought
Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa and even being on a permanent diet are problems we tend to associate with young women, but according to research from the University of North Carolina, people over the age of 50 aren’t immune to the psychological pressures behind the conditions.
Assessing nearly 2,000 women from across the USA, the researchers wanted to find out how women over 50 felt about their bodies. Until now such research has focused almost entirely on younger women. Would reaching a mature age make women more secure and confident about their weight? Would they have ‘grown out’ of body dissatisfaction once they’d had successful long-term relationships, families and/or successful careers, things that teenage girls do not yet have? The results were worrying: eating disorders were common. Nearly one in 10 women reported purging, the practice of making yourself bring up food that’s been eaten; within the past five years; 3.5% said they had binged on food within the last month. While more women in their 50s reported these behaviours, some aged over 75 also said they’d done the same. More than one in three women said they had spent at least half their time in the last five years on a diet and 41% checked their body daily, weighing themselves twice a week or more. Perhaps most concerning is that two thirds were unhappy with their overall physical appearance.
“This research is very welcome as it shows the importance of a focus on health and wellbeing at all stages of life,” says Paul Gately, Professor of Obesity and founder of weight loss management company MoreLife. “Of course there are many assumptions that somehow the issue of a woman’s weight changes/diminishes as they mature. This research shows that such assumptions may not be valid and that women of all ages can be dissatisfied with their weight.”