A large Norwegian sample highlights a sometimes overlooked community health problem.
Disordered eating, emerging from body dissatisfaction, weight preoccupation, and dysfunctional eating patterns, has generally been described as a problem of younger patients. However, the fact that disordered eating can occur at any age, from childhood to advanced years, has been reinforced in a cross-sectional study of more than 90,000 middle-aged Norwegian women (PLoS ONE oi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211056).
When Dr. Marie Sigstad Lande and colleagues at the Arctic University of Norway, Tromo, analyzed disordered eating among 90, 592 women 46 and 76 years of age (median age: 55 years) who had completed questionnaires from the Norwegian Women and Cancer study from 2002 to 2005, they found the prevalence of disordered eating was 0.28%, and this was highest among women older than 66 years of age. Disordered eating was strongly associated with a history of depression, being unemployed, and single. In this study, depression was he strongest correlate of disordered eating: women with disordered eating had three-fold higher odds of also being diagnosed with depression. Women with disordered eating were also more likely to report low energy intake, and less likely to be moderately physically active. Just as in earlier studies, Dr. Lande and colleagues’ finding that the oldest age group—women 66 to 76 years of age—had the highest prevalence of disordered eating.
This large-scale study confirms the findings of earlier smaller studies showing that disordered eating can arise in mid-life and older age. The authors feel that their study “underscores a somewhat under-communicated community health problem that needs attention in terms of age-specific treatment and prevention.”