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For the most part, eating disorders are usually associated with teenagers. But a new research shows that eating disorders are not limited by age. Scientists say that eating disorders in older women are common.

As if getting older wasn’t hard enough, a study published this week in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, shows that women over 50 are at risk of eating disorders. Researchers with the University of North Carolina investigated 1,800 women at least age 50 and found that eating disorders are a much bigger problem than commonly imagined.

Purging, binge eating and exercising or dieting excessively seem to be common among older women. The study showed that 62 percent of them had complained their weight had impacted their lives in a negative way, while 70 percent admitted to have been dieting. 8 percent of the women in the study said they were purging.

Moreover, the older they get, women tend to be even more scrutinous about their weight. 79 percent said their self-perception is impacted by how much they weight, while 41 percent admitted to checking their weight and body each day. 13,3 percent of them reported they had eating disorders symptoms and 36 percent said they’ve been spending half of their time dieting over the past five years.

Dr. Cynthia Bulik, lead author of the study, said their findings “really busts the myths that disordered eating is the province of adolescent and young adult women”. The researcher says the trigger for these women’s eating disorders is the constant need to look perfect.

“We have to keep our body locking 20 years younger than it actually is, and that’s an enormous amount of pressure for these women. That’s what sort of puts them on this slippery slope” said Bulik. “They see the distance between what’s happening to themselves, their body and the societal ideal, and then they start engaging in really unhealthy weight control practices” added the researcher.

William Walters, manager at the National Eating Disorders Association’s helpline, said the findings are not surprising. “Midlife can be hard, and just as difficult a transition as the teens and early adulthood, in its own way” he said. “There is no break from our culture’s confusing messages regarding the overestimation of self-worth based on image” said Walters.

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