Objective: No published studies, to our knowledge, have examined the association of menopausal status with eating disorders and body image in women. We assessed these associations in a large sample of middle-aged women.
Method: We administered an anonymous questionnaire to a randomly selected nonclinical sample of women aged 40-60 in Innsbruck, Austria. The questionnaire covered demographic items, menopausal status, weight history, measures of body image, and current eating disorders as diagnosed by DSM-IV criteria. Using modified WHO criteria, we classified the respondents' current stage of menopausal transition as premenopausal (N=192), perimenopausal (N=110), or naturally postmenopausal (N=134). In a separate analysis, we also examined the small group of women with surgically induced menopause (N=12).
Results: The three groups were similar in all demographic features except age, and did not differ significantly on current body mass index (BMI), weight-control behaviors, or dieting history after age adjustment. However, perimenopausal women reported a significantly greater prevalence of eating disorders as compared to premenopausal women. Perimenopausal women also reported significantly higher self-ratings of feeling fat and higher Body Shape Questionnaire scores than premenopausal women. Women with surgically induced menopause also showed an elevated prevalence of eating and body image pathology.
Discussion: Our data suggest that the menopausal transition is associated with an increased prevalence of eating disorders and negative body image. Menopause, like puberty, may perhaps represent a window of vulnerability to these conditions, likely because of changes in hormonal function, body composition, and conceptions of womanhood. (c) 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013; 46:609-616)