The way that we think and talk about food can be a powerful influence on our relationships with it. The choices we make about what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat can impact our bodies, emotions, and health. However, sometimes these choices can lead to unhealthy or dangerous eating behaviours such as disordered eating or dieting. These are often more common in certain age groups, such as teenagers or middle-aged women.
Many different factors can cause people to develop an unhealthy relationship with food, including body image concerns, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions. Disordered eating can also be a result of life events or stressful situations, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or major changes at work or home. It can be very difficult to recognize when your relationship with food has become unhealthy, so it’s important to pay attention to any warning signs.
Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence, but they can occur at any age, and people from all backgrounds experience them. Young females are at the highest risk of developing anorexia or bulimia, but adolescent boys and men can also develop these illnesses. People with autism are also at higher risk for developing anorexia, as they may exhibit restrictive eating patterns and a desire to display a sense of control in the face of challenging circumstances.
Middle-aged women tend to have more body dissatisfaction and a greater tendency to adopt the thin ideal than younger women, but there is no clear pattern of how a person’s age affects their rate of onset of an ED. Moreover, it is very common for a person to develop more than one type of ED at a time, and people with a history of adolescent EDs are more likely to experience recurrence in later adulthood.
Despite the high rates of EDs in young women and adolescent girls, a large proportion of people with these conditions are not diagnosed or treated. This is because many individuals with EDs are in denial about their condition and do not seek help. However, early intervention is essential and your GP can be a good first point of contact.
A number of studies have tested whether age moderates the effectiveness of prevention programs for EDs. Results of these tests are shown in Table 1. Two age effects were significant: Age moderated the condition effect (p