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Social media blamed for eating disorder rise in middle-aged women

Weight Loss

Published at 7:00am 22nd January 2017. (Updated at 3:40pm 4th February 2019)

It is often regarded as a "disease of the young"..

But new figures reveal more and more middle-aged women are suffering from eating disorders on Safer Internet Day.

The study, published in the Biomed Central Journalinvolved more than 5,000 women, and found just over 3% reported having an eating disorder. 

It also found that 15% of those in their 40s and 50s in the UK said they'd been affected at some point in their lifetime. 

Some said they had experienced it since their teens, others developed it for the first time in their middle age.

Childhood sexual abuse was prospectively associated with all binge/purge type disorders and an external locus of control was associated with binge-eating disorder.

Eating Disorders

Better maternal care was protective for bulimia nervosa.

Meanwhile, childhood life events and interpersonal sensitivity were associated with all eating disorders. 

'We are living in the age of the selfie and Instagram'

Pippa Mitchell, a Nutrional Therapist from Godalming, thinks some of it could be down to social media pressure: "We are living in the age of the selfie and the Instagram.

"I think there's a huge amount of pressure on young people, both boys and girls, but actually also older people as well, about how our bodies should look."

"It can be very disempowering because a lot of these pictures are photoshopped anyway."

"It's often extremely unrealistic expectations with bodies that don't really bear much resemblance to what we would call a normal sort of average body.

"And actually, indeed, a lot of those people might be suffering from health problems that we have got absolutely no idea about, eating disorders or certaintly, dysfunctional eating."

Dr Nadia Micali, lead author of the study that is published in the journal BMC Medicine, said: "Many of the women who took part in this study told us this was the first time they had ever spoken about their eating difficulties, so we need to understand why many women did not seek help."

The researchers hope this survey will highlight that when it comes to diagnosing eating disorders, health service provision for middle aged women could be improved.

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