Studies and Statistics on Disordered Eating in Women Age 30 and Over

ED After Age 30

Article Contributed by Kathleen L. Someah, B.A., PhD Candidate, Palo Alto University, Nutrition Assistant, New Dawn Treatment Centers

Eating disorders have received significant attention as a disorder that occurs most readily in young women.  A recent study found that nearly 95% of individuals struggling from disordered eating range between 12 years of age and 25 years of age (ANAD, 2013).  However, eating disorders do not discriminate among age and additional evidence indicates a growing prevalence of eating disorders in women aged 30 and above.

After surveying 1,849 women above the age of 50, researchers noted a somewhat surprisingly elevated rate of eating disorder behaviors in middle-aged women.  According to this study, which was later published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, nearly 80% of respondents reported purging during the previous five years, and an additional 7% of participants said that their preoccupation with weight control led to regularly engaging in excessive exercise routines.  In addition, researchers noted that a significant number of such respondents also reported feeling dissatisfied with their bodies.  Resulting data revealed that more than 70% of the surveyed women were actively trying to lose weight, and 62% of such individuals described eating as exerting a negative impact on their life either occasionally or often.  Of those women 41% mentioned that they regularly scrutinize their body at least once per day.

Further studies also support such findings.  Using a random sample of 475 women between the ages of 60 and 70 years old, 90% of those surveyed described feeling dissatisfaction with their bodies.  Eighteen of the women in the study also met the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder and an additional 21 women reported using laxatives, diuretics, or engaging in other behaviors common in eating disorders.  Furthermore, research indicates that body dissatisfaction does not diminish but rather increases for middle-aged women when assessed in comparison to their younger and senior cohorts.  However, reasons for this remain uncertain.

In a study aimed at discerning the various reasons why eating disorder symptomology is increasingly prevalent among middle-aged women, researchers examined factors often associated with disordered eating in women aged 30 years and above (Mclean, Paxton, Wertheim, 2010).  Using a community sample of 200 women between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, researchers conducted a series of assessments in the effort to better understand this occurrence.  The Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) was used to measure concerns related to weight, physical shape, eating, and restraint.  Concluding data showed a positive correlation between the importance of appearance and the various EDE-Q subscales.  Data also indicated a strong association between the importance of appearance and body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.  The higher the importance placed on appearance, the higher the level of body dissatisfaction.  Of the participants who were identified as probable eating disorder cases, many had a significantly elevated Body Mass Index (BMI) score.  Those individuals also reported greater concern with appearance and demonstrated significantly lower cognitive reappraisal and self-care scores than participants who were not identified as probable eating disorder cases.

Women in today’s society are inundated with messages concerning body dissatisfaction and ways to alter one’s physical appearance.  With the increasing onslaught of such advertisements it is of little surprise that so many young women find it difficult to accept their body as is.  These messages do not stop either and much of this scrutiny over physical attributes perpetuates into adulthood.  Studies show that nearly 62% of women between the ages of 13 and 19 years old report some level of body dissatisfaction and further studies reveal that this value rises 67% in women over the age of 30 years old.  Therefore, while young women are initiated to think poorly of their body, such messages continue to persist into adulthood, thus affecting their self-image during middle age.

Eating disorders continue to be difficult to treat regardless of the age at which they initially present.  However, addressing the thoughts and proceeding behaviors early on remains imperative, regardless of the age of onset.


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McLean, S. A., Paxton, S. J., & Wertheim, E. H. (2010). Factors associated with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in women in midlife. International Journal Of Eating Disorders, 43(6), 527-536.

Montepare JM. Actual and subjective age-related differences in womens attitudes toward their bodies across the life span. J Adult Dev 1996;3:171–182.

Zerbe, K., & Domnitei, D. (2004). Eating Disorders at Middle Age, Part 1. Eating Disorders Review, 15(2), 1-3.


Published Date: March 11, 2013

Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 11, 2013
Page last updated: March 11, 2013

Published on, A Resource for Eating Disorder Help