Divorce & Eating Disorders: Women in Their 40s are More Likely to Suffer Than Younger Counterparts

For some reason, women who divorce between the ages of 40-49 have a greater tendency to develop eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge-eating than women in other age groups. The figures for women afflicted with these conditions in middle age are pretty high and this surprised researchers who now believe that people have both a biological and genetic predisposition to eating disorders:

The higher-than-expected figures are being blamed, at least in part, on emotional upheaval in later life.

Rebecca Field of the eating disorder charity Beat said: ‘Eating disorders come at all ages, not just for people under the age of 18, and there are many life changes like divorce and bereavement which happen to people in later life and can act as triggers.’

Research suggests some people have a biological or genetic predisposition to eating disorders and are plunged into them by sudden change.

Miss Field added: ‘One environmental factor might be changes in normal daily life and routine. The anxiety from these changes could lead to an eating disorder.’

The study, by University College London and Icahn School of Medicine in New York, was the first to look at eating disorders in women aged 40 to 50. The results, published in the journal BMC Medicine, left researchers surprised.

The divorce (like the death of a parent) acts as a trigger that can send women of a certain age and predisposition into an emotional tailspin. Researchers have also linked these women’s behaviours to their relationships with their mothers in early childhood. If the relationship was healthy the likelihood that the sufferer will develop an eating disorder in her 40s (triggered by divorce or bereavement) decreases, according to some studies.

Why do women abuse food during a divorce interval? It is a way to internalize the pain and to feel in control of something for some women, it appears. Especially in the case of anorexia and bulimia. The woman may feel like she has no control over the ending of her marriage but she certainly can control how much food gets into her intestines.

How can women protect themselves from this ailment? Based on the research, it will not always be possible to protect oneself if indeed this is a natural and biological predisposition but women can certainly decline to suffer in silence and can ask for help if they find they are having a difficult time with coping.