Eating Disorders in the Elderly

The first published case of a late-onset eating disorder (at the age of 40) was in 1930 by John M. Berkman. In 1936, John A. Ryle published a case study of an eating disorder in a 59-year-old woman. Just how common are eating disorders in late middle-age or elderly individuals?

One study of 475 community dwelling elderly women aged 60–70 years found that 3.8% met diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. A study of elderly Canadian women reported that symptoms of disordered eating were present in 2.6% of women aged 50–64 years, and in 1.8% of women aged 65 years or older (Gadalla, 2008). In an investigation of eating disorders in elderly outpatient males, a minority (11–19%) who were undernourished were found to have abnormal eating attitudes and body image, including inappropriate self-control around food (60%), unsuitable eating attitudes (26%), and distorted body image (3–52%) (Miller et al., 1991).

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