When it comes to eating disorders and body image issues, teenagers or young women might come to mind. However, a new study shows that these problems are also common among older women.

Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders (2012; doi: 10.1002/eat.22030), the study aimed to better understand attitudes toward body weight and shape among women aged 50 and older. It included data from 1,849 women who participated in an online survey. Of the respondents, 62% admitted that their weight and shape had a negative impact on their life; 79% said weight and shape affected their self-perception. The researchers found that 3.5% of the women reported binge eating at least once a week, 8% had purged “in the absence of binge eating” within the previous 5 years and 70% were attempting to lose weight.

“Eating disorder symptoms, dieting and body checking behaviors, and weight and shape concerns were widely endorsed,” the authors reported. Younger women (those in their early 50s) with a higher body mass index seemed the most greatly affected subset.

“Focused research on eating patterns in this age group is necessary to develop age-appropriate interventions and to meet the developmental needs of an important, growing and underserved population,” the authors concluded.