I tend to think of a young, white woman, teenager or college student, when I think of an eating disorder. Research is beginning to show that other age groups have been ignored – especially the older woman.
Finally, someone is paying attention!
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Tamara Pryor, clinical director of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDC-D) reported that over a two year period at the Center, younger women and women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s had similar temperaments and triggers which resulted in eating disorders.
Pryor initially thought the women’s issues would be different depending upon their age, but that didn’t happen. Both groups were described with low self-esteem and very anxious. One major difference impacting the older group was the approach of menopause which caused many of the older women to feel uncomfortable about their bodies. Particular changes in family life that also served as triggers and impacted older women more were caring for aging parents and divorce.
Dr. Pryor’s work confirms the observations of other groups such as the British Dietetic Association which recently observed and noted an increase in older men and women being treated for eating disorders.
"We call this phenomenon the ‘Desperate Housewives Effect’ because of how thin and young the middle-aged women on the popular television show appear. The timely names puts some responsibility on a culture that supports and encourages fountain of youth fixes," quotes Pryor in a press release.
Although they do offer insight into the problem, Pryor’s observations haven’t been published in a medical journal. Further study with large samples are needed so that there is more focus on this topic. Obviously, eating disorders can be lifelong conditions, requiring continuing treatment. Recognizing and studying anorexia and other eating disorders in older women and men can only help to better treatment for their health issues.
One of the reasons given for older people seeking treatment for eating disorders is that the population – the baby boomer population is much bigger than previous groups. Another reason given for the increase is that people are better informed. I think there’s more to it than those two reasons although they’re plausible. I’d like to know what you think the cause is for the increase.
Scroll down to Comments and write your thoughts in the blank window. Let’s see if we can share some ideas.