Study finds eating disorders don't only affect younger women

POSTED: Sunday, June 24, 2012 - 3:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, June 24, 2012 - 3:04pm

Women over age 50 make up a growing group suffering from eating disorders and a distorted view of their own bodies.

"Over the past 10 years, there's been a demographic shift," says Dr. Cynthia Bulik.

Dr. Bulik runs the eating disorders clinic at the University of North Carolina.

Her survey of more than 1,800 women over 50 found the prevalence of disordered eating in this population is as high or higher than in teen girls and younger women.

"3.5% of the women endorsed binge eating. 8% said that they have purged in the past five years," she says.

More than half said thoughts about their weight and shape interfered with their life and happiness.

56-year-old Janice Bremis of California continues to battle eating disorder issues.

She was first diagnosed with anorexia at age 17.

"Over a course of two years, I lost half my weight," she admits.

She now runs an eating disorder advocacy group and says older women tend to feel uncomfortable seeking help for what many view as a young person's disease.

Many treatments for anorexia have been developed for teen girls, but experts haven't yet tailored those treatments to older women.

Experts say part of the problem is the "70 is the new 50" movement.

"I think part of what's happening is the pressures on women of all ages to continue looking young and attractive are just escalating," Dr. Bulik says.

Adding to the problem of getting age appropriate treatment is that the older people get, the less resilient their bodies are after suffering the physical effects of an eating disorder. 

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