You may think that eating disorders only plague young and impressionable women, but according to a new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, women over the age of 50 may be prone to developing them, too.

Researchers at the University of Carolina Eating Disorders Program have discovered that even women of a certain age aren’t exempted from having insecurities about their weight. From the survey results of 1,849 women over 50, researchers found that 13 percent of them had an eating disorder and that 79 percent said that their weight affects their self-perception. The study reveals that teenagers aren’t the only ones who are obsessive about their body. According to the reports, 41 percent of the women checked their body everyday and 40 percent weighed themselves a few times a week.

While 70 percent claimed that they were trying to lose weight, their weight loss plans don’t always follow a straight line. Of the women who answered the survey, 3.5 percent was regularly binge eating; eight percent reported purging and 36 percent spent half of the last five years stuck in a diet. Other women turn to more drastic measures of weight loss—7.5 percent took diet pills, seven percent exercised rigorously, 2.5 percent chose diuretics, two percent laxatives and one percent vomiting.

According to the researchers, some of these women may have had an eating disorder earlier in their life and simply relapsed when they got older. Some may have been battling with an eating disorder all their life. It’s also possible for women to simply develop the disorder at age 50. Big and less-than-positive changes tend to trigger the disorder. Divorce, loss of a loved one, the pressure to stay young-looking—these things have the potential to drive any woman to an eating disorder.

Now, if you think that news of a woman over 50 having weight problems isn’t something to lose sleep over, you may want to consider the fact that women at such an age aren’t as strong as they used to be. An eating disorder can lead to other health problems in the heart, bones and gastrointestinal tract among others. That's why it's important to maintain a positive body image and a healthy lifestyle, regardless of age.

(Photo by joao ornelas via Flickr Creative Commons)

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