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Do Eating Disorders Affect Older Women?


Updated February 12, 2013

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Question: Do Eating Disorders Affect Older Women?

One of the most common myths about eating disorders is that they only affect adolescents and young adults. While the majority of eating disorders do begin in adolescence, this is certainly not the only age group affected by eating disorders and eating issues.

In 2012, researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, published a research study showing that many women over the age of 50 struggle with the symptoms of eating disorders. They surveyed 1849 women over the age of 50, and found the following results:

  • 3.5% of those surveyed reported that they binge at least once per week.
  • 7.8% reported purging behaviors within the past five years.
  • 71.8% of the women were currently trying to lose weight.
  • 41.2% of the women said they checked their body shape or size on a daily basis.

In addition, it was found that most of the women reported that their concerns regarding weight and body shape often negatively affect their lives. A majority of these women reported that they had not previously been diagnosed with an eating disorder. However, 13.3% of the women reported that they currently had an eating disorder, which had been diagnosed prior to the survey.


Gagne, D.A., Von Holle, A., Brownley, K.A., Runfola, C.D., Hofmeier, S., Branch, K.E., & Bulik, C.M. (2012). Eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns in a large web-based convenience sample of women ages 50 and above: Results of the gender and body image (GABI) study. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Early view published online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.2203 0/pdf Accessed July 7, 2012.

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