Eating disorders in older women: does late onset anorexia nervosa exist?

Int J Eat Disord. 2010 Jul;43(5):393-7. doi: 10.1002/eat.20704.


Objective: The objective of this study is to determine whether eating disorders can present for the first time in older people.

Method: This is a descriptive study of patients above the age of 50 years who have presented to a national eating disorder center within the last 10 years.

Results: Thirty-two patients were identified; data were available for 26 of these patients and 11 agreed for further interview and questionnaire completion. There were no cases where the eating disorder had its onset late in life. Of the 11 interviewed, six participants retained a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, four had Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified and only one was recovered. Comorbid depression was universal in those still suffering with an eating disorder diagnosis, and their level of social functioning was impaired.

Discussion: Anorexia nervosa is a chronic and enduring mental illness that, although rare, can be found in older people. In our sample, we found no evidence of late-onset disorders; all described cases were lifelong.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires