Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 269-277

First online:

Prevalence and selected correlates of eating disorder symptoms among a multiethnic community sample of midlife women

  • Marsha D. MarcusAffiliated withWestern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Email author 
  • , Joyce T. BrombergerAffiliated withWestern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical CenterGraduate School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Hsiao-Lan WeiAffiliated withGraduate School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Charlotte BrownAffiliated withWestern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • , Howard M. KravitzAffiliated withDepartments of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center

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Background: There is little information about the symptoms of disordered eating or their association with psychological and physical parameters in midlife women.Purpose: The aim is to examine (a) the prevalence of binge eating, inappropriate weight control behaviors, and weight and body image concerns among middle-aged community women; (b) whether rates of eating disorder symptoms vary among ethnic groups and are associated with socioeconomic status, weight-related variables, current depressive symptoms or history of major depression, substance abuse or dependence, or childhood abuse; and (c) whether the association between ethnicity and eating disorder symptoms persists after adjustment for covariates.Methods: The sample of 589 pre- and early perimenopausal African American, Hispanic, and White women were participants in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a U.S. multisite longitudinal study of menopause and aging. Women reported information on sociodemographic, symptom, health, psychosocial and lifestyle variables. DSM-IV disorders were determined, physical measures were obtained, and a questionnaire to assess symptoms of eating disorders was completed.Results: Rates of regular binge eating, dissatisfaction with eating patterns, and marked fear of weight gain were 11, 29.3, and 9.2%, respectively. African Americans were more likely than were Whites to report fasting. In multivariable analyses, high body mass index (or waist circumference), depressive symptoms, past depression, and history of childhood/adolescence abuse were significantly associated with the Binge Eating and Preoccupation with Eating, Shape and Weight subscale scores.Conclusions: These data suggest that further examination of the relationship between eating problems and well being in older women is warranted.