Women over 50 'just as likely to suffer from eating disorders as teenagers'3.5% reported binge eating, while 8% admitted purging62% claimed weight negatively impacted on their lifeOver-75s can still suffer eating problems, study finds
04:15 GMT, 21 June 2012
They are commonly seen as issues faced predominantly by teenagers and young women.
But new research has found that ladies over 50 are just as likely to suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia as those of their younger generations.
Scientists also found that women aged 75 and over can still suffer from binge eating or purging problems.
Spanning the generations: Women over 50 are just as likely to suffer from eating disorders as teenagers, new research has found (file pictures posed by models)
Researchers found in women aged 50 and over that 3.5 per cent reported binge eating, while nearly eight per cent said they had purged food from their bodies and more than 70 per cent admitted they were trying to lose weight.
The study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, also found that nearly two-thirds of older women (62 per cent) claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted on their life.
The researchers, led by Dr Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Programme, reached 1,849 women from across the U.S. participating in the Gender and Body Image Study (GABI) with a survey titled Body Image in Women 50 and Over – Tell Us What You Think and Feel.
Dr Bulik said: 'We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies.
'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.'
Worrying: Researchers on the North Carolina Eating Disorders Programme also found that even women over 75 can still suffer from binge eating or purging problems (file picture posed by model)
The average age of the participants was 59, while 92 per cent were white.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) were obese, 29 per cent were overweight, 42 per cent were normal weight and two per cent were underweight.
Results revealed that eating disorder symptoms were common. About eight per cent of the women reported purging in the last five years and 3.5 per cent reported binge eating in the last month.
These problems were most prevalent in women in their early 50s, but also occurred in women over 75.
When it came to weight issues, 36 per cent of the women reported spending at least half their time in the last five years dieting, 41 per cent checked their body daily and 40 per cent weighed themselves a couple of times a week or more.
Nearly two-thirds of the women (62 per cent) claimed their weight or shape negatively impacted their life, 79 per cent said that it affected their self-perception and 64 per cent said that they thought about it daily.
The women reported resorting to a variety of unhealthy methods to change their body, including diet pills (7.5 per cent), excessive exercise (seven per cent), diuretics (2.5 per cent), laxatives (two per cent) and vomiting (one per cent).
Two-thirds (66 per cent) were unhappy with their overall appearance and this was highest when it came to their stomach (84 per cent) and shape (73 per cent).
Dr Bulik added: 'The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don’t discriminate on the basis of age.
'Healthcare providers should remain alert for eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns that may adversely influence women’s physical and psychological well-being as they mature.'