A recent study found that more and more middle-aged women were suffering from eating disorders. These food related disorders, the study found, were brought on by divorces, separations, early sexual abuse, financial problems, and other life events. The study, which came from the University College London and was published in BMC Medicine, interviewed over nearly 6,000 women from Great Britain and analyzed the results.
Eating disorders are defined as a mental disorder classified by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect one’s mental and physical health. These disorders include binge eating, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, pica, rumination disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. With proper treatment, those suffering from an eating disorder can recover and can include counseling, good diet, a healthy amount of exercise, and occasionally hospitalization.
According to The Telegraph, “three percent of women in their 40s and 50s have a recent eating problem.” Though more are likely “suffering in silence.” The study interviewed women around Britain and found that as many as 15 percent of them suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The study showed that eating disorders did not only affect younger people but those in their middle ages.
Lead author, Dr. Nadia Micali from the Department of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and University College London stated that many of the women who participated in the study had never revealed their eating disorders. Her research team sought to find out why this was the case, theorizing that there might be barriers in healthcare of a “lack of awareness among healthcare professionals,” according to EurekAlert!
From the data, the researchers found that anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa were two of the UK’s most common eating disorders. Their chances for an eating disorder increased if the women reported being unhappy in childhood. The study also found that a higher sensitivity to others’ feelings was associated with binge eating, but a good relationship with their mother reduced the chances of developing bulimia by 20 percent.
The study also showed a possible lack of awareness coming from the medical profession regarding eating disorders among middle-aged women. Women suffering from one of these disorders also need to feel safe enough to disclose it to their doctors. Further education for medical professionals is required to properly treat women with these specific disorders. Dr. Agnes Ayton, Vice Chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, stated that a large number of patients with some sort of disorders with eating do not seek help and that most of the current studies being done focused on adolescents and younger adults. More studies need to be conducted to pinpoint the rise in the cause of eating disorders.
By Cheryl Werber