Older women and eating disorders

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 8th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Young women aren’t the only ones who dislike their body shape and weight. New research shows women into their sixties are unhappy about how they look, too. And some even suffer from the same serious eating disorders that plague younger women… like bulimia and anorexia.

Austrian researchers asked four-hundred-seventy-five women ages sixty to seventy about their body image, eating habits and symptoms of eating disorders. The results were surprising.

More than sixty percent said they were somewhat unhappy with their bodies, even though more than a third of them were of normal weight. Almost ninety percent said they “felt” fat. Four percent of them had eating habits and distortions in body image serious enough to signal an eating disorder. Yet another four percent reported one eating disorder symptom… typically binge-eating, purging or using laxatives or diuretics to lose weight.

Researchers say the study findings show that even as women grow older, they don’t outgrow the desire to have “an ideal body.” In fact, their wishes, preferences and ideals stay the same.

Many doctors are unaware of the problem, researchers say, mainly because so little research has been done on the subject. Plus, recognizing eating disorders in older women can be tricky because age- related illnesses may cause symptoms like weight loss and appetite changes.

Even though only a small percentage of older women probably have eating disorders, scientists say more studies are needed to understand how far- reaching the problem is and how best to address it.