Purpose of review
To summarize the recent literature examining eating disorders, eating behavior, and body image in middle-aged and elderly women.
A small but evolving literature has begun to address the epidemiology, features, and potential treatment of eating disorders and related body-image concerns in middle-aged and elderly women. Preliminary findings suggest that pathological eating behaviors and frank eating disorders are surprisingly common in older women, as are associated body-image disturbances. Older women appear less likely to exhibit anorexia and bulimia nervosa and more likely to exhibit binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified. The prevalence of such conditions in older women has likely increased in recent decades. On many indices of disordered eating and body image, older women with eating disorder resemble younger women with similar conditions, although older women exhibit certain unique concerns, such as dealing with menopause and with aging.
It appears that clinicians should be alert for eating and body-image disorder even in women well beyond the younger age range in whom these disorders have traditionally been described. Subsequent research should consider treatment strategies tailored for older women with eating disorders.