The number of middle-aged people being treated for eating disorders has increased during the last decade. Body image issues and body dissatisfaction increase as the human body undergoes natural changes such as greying hair, wrinkles and weight gain and it has been theorized that mid-life eating disorders could be caused by mid-life transitions such as the loss of parents, siblings or children; traumatic illness and empty-nest syndrome. In some cases this may be a recurrence of an eating disorder which first appeared in childhood but little is known about women developing an eating disorder for the first time at this age. A study of 50 women with a first eating-disorder onset at age 40 or above found that compared to younger patients middle-aged anorexics had less severe and less-common symptoms; a predominance of 'pure' restricting behaviours and a rarity of bulimia; similar rates of depression and anxiety but of less severity; fewer substance-use disorders and substantially greater histories of sexual abuse.
Cumella, Edward J. and Kally, Zina - Profile of 50 women with midlife-onset eating disorders Eating Disorders May-June 2008, 16(3), 193-203