While many associate eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia and overeating – is an issue only wrestled with by teenage girls, a new study has found women over 50 also struggle with the same disorders. According to the study, 3.5% of women age 50 and over have reported binge eating, 8% reported purging and a whopping 70% claim they are unhappy with their current weight.
This new study, entitled ℠Body Image in Women 50 and Over — Tell Us What You Think and Feel,´ has been published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Of the women interviewed for the study, 62% claimed their shape or weight negatively impacted their life.
Led by Dr. Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program, the study talked with 1,849 women from all over America who had participated in the Gender and Body Image Study (GABI).
“We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies,” said Bulik in a recent statement.
“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 nearly 2,000 women surveyed was 59, while 92% of them were white. As for their current weight, 27% were obese, 29% were classified as overweight, 42% were “normal,” and 2% were listed as underweight.
Regular eating disorders were common among the entire group of women, with 8% of them saying they had purged in the last 5 years, and 3.5% of these women said they had engaged in binge eating in the last month. According to this study, women in their early 50s were more likely to struggle with these issues, but women as old as 75 also reported the same struggles.
When asked about how they felt about their current weight, 36% of the women surveyed said they had spent at least half of their time in the last 5 years dieting. 41% of them said they checked their weight daily, while 40% of them reported checking their weight a couple of times a week, if not more.
In order to keep their weight in check, these women have also engaged in some other unhealthy behavior, such as taking diet pills, exercising excessively, or vomiting.
Of these women, 7.5% said they took diet pills, 7% said they exercised excessively, 2% said they took laxatives to lose weight, while 1% said they would vomit in order to take off a few pounds.
Overall, 66% of these older women said they were generally unhappy with their appearance. When asked specifically about their stomachs, 84% said they were unhappy with how they looked. When asked about their general shape, 73% said they were displeased.
“The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don´t discriminate on the basis of age,” concluded Bulik. “Healthcare 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.”