Eating Disorders in the Over 50's

Eating Disorders and the over 50's

Eating disorders are most commonly associated with adolescents and young people however there is a growing trend showing that the number of eating disorders in the over 50's is significantly increasing. A survey recently found that 13% of women over 50 had experienced eating disorder symptoms while over 70% were attempting to lose weight. Such findings shouw that eating disorders are no longer an issue for young girls but are also having a considerable negative impact on older people. This may be as a result of the increased pressures for those over 50 to be thin and 'youthful' or it may represent the lifelong struggles that some people face with disordered eating that does not simply disappear after adolescence. 

Although eating disorders do not differ across the lifespan symptoms may be different in later life as the bodies reaction to the effects of disordered eating may be slightly different. There are greater numbers of gastrointestinal, cardiac, bone and even dental effects of eating disorders as individuals mature. This means that illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia in this age category should be taken seriously and action should be taken quickly if you think you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder. This means that you sohuld seek help for an eating disorder even if you do not meet the full criteria for an eating disorder as clinicans will take into account the difference that age may have on bodies. Many people with eating disorders who are over 50 are especially hesitant to bring up their eating disorder with their health care providers for fear of being told that they should have grown out of it, or that it is a young person’s disorder.

Eating disorders do not discriminate by age - anyone, at any age can be affected!

What do I do if I think I have an eating disorder but I am over 50?

  • Don't panic! Whether you have only developed an eating disorder in later life or it is something you have struggled with throughout your whole life this is not something to keep to youself. You are not alone or the only one who is going through it.
  • Don't feel stupid, childish or like you should have grown out of this. Eating disorders do not discriminate by age and are an illness that can and do affect anyone. 
  • Don't suffer alone - there are support groups, specialist services and places where you can get help; you will not be turned away because of your age.
  • Talk to your family, friends or call us for support.
  • Be aware of the health complications that might be more prominent for the over 50's, such as cardiac health and osteoporosis, and speak to your GP about these physical and mental health aspects. 

If you are worried about yourself or someone else over 50 who has an eating disorder do not hestitate to get in touch with us on 02890235959 or email in confidence.

Eating Disorder Association NI
28 Bedford Street,
Belfast, BT2 7FE
Phone: 028 9023 5959