Eating disorders, despite being usually linked to adolescents and young adults, can happen at all ages, and scientists are trying to understand the factors involved and the prevalence of these conditions in other periods of life. A new study, published in the scientific journal Menopause, looked at the case during perimenopause, the period when the female body is adapting and preparing for menopause, when it will no longer be fertile.
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These disorders are very serious mental health conditions, linked to eating behavior and body image, occurring in at least 13.1% of women at some point in their lives. Over 40 years of age, the prevalence is 3.5%, and it can cause serious complications, such as high mortality and morbidity, which only increase with age. Even so, few studies have focused on middle-aged women, including the premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal periods.
Middle age and body dissatisfaction
Some evidence has already shown that the perimenopausal era has the highest rates of eating disorders among the reproductive midlife periods, with symptoms such as obsessive calorie counting and consumption of only diet foods. In relation to body dissatisfaction and the feeling of obesity, the situation of this part of the population is very different from that of premenopausal women.
In the study, researchers used network Reviews on statistical models to compare the structure and importance of specific eating disorder symptoms across reproductive stages. The results showed that, as in young adults, dissatisfaction with one’s own body is still a key element of these pathologies, especially the fear of gaining weight and losing control of eating habits.
Valid for both perimenopausal and postmenopausal disorders, the findings, according to the scientists, can be used to devise treatments especially aimed at middle-aged women, better avoiding the associated pathologies. As the study was on a small scale — with only 36 participants — the scientists admit that larger studies are needed to better understand these associations, but reinforce the need to observe the health of this population portion, underrepresented in research.