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Eating Disorders In Seniors


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Eating Disorders. Image courtesy: VeryWell Mind

Eating disorders are something not often discussed, especially when it comes to seniors. There seems to be a misconception that older adults and seniors do not have eating disorders, because they are reserved for the younger generations.

Unfortunately it is quite prevalent in senior citizens because eating disorders do not discriminate by gender, race, and definitely not age. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, eating disorders do primarily appear in early adulthood: the median age of onset for bulimia and anorexia is 18, while the median age of onset for Binge Eating Disorder is 21.

If untreated at the young age it developed, it is carried throughout a person’s life, and well into adulthood. No one outgrows an eating disorder.

Some types of eating disorders:

  • Binge eating-Eating large amounts of food, usually consumed very quickly. Many times seniors will horde food in their homes or rooms.
  • Bulimia Nervosa– Purging after consuming large amounts of food. This is done by vomiting or laxatives. Many medical conditions can arise especially in seniors, including electrolyte imbalances, colon problems, and heart and kidney damage.
  • Anorexia Nervosa– A person has a distorted body image, generally thinking they are too fat or overweight. Extreme measures are taken to not gain weight, such as not eating.
  • Anorexia of Aging– According to the National Institutes of Health, anorexia of aging is normally caused by a variety of issues specifically related to aging, such as a decrease in smell and taste, which leads to diminished food intake, as well as hormonal issues, gastrointestinal abnormalities and low-grade inflammation.

What to look for in yourself or someone you know:

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Excessive hair loss.
  • Feeling cold all the time.
  • Medical problems, such as heart problems, gastrointestinal issues, and dental damage.
  • Disappearing food, an increase in food bills, or an excessive amount of food that has been thrown away.
  •  Desire to eat alone. 
  • Disappearing after eating.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders(ANAD) General Eating Disorder Statistics:

  • Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide.
  • 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
  • Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”
  • 28-74% of risk for eating disorders is through genetic heritability.
  • Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.
  • 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.
  • About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.
  • The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year.

With all this being said, any age is affected and all ages need to get treatment. There is always help. Please talk to your doctor, or contact NEDA(National Eating Disorders Association):

Stay happy, healthy, and positive always!