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Are Eating Disorder Advocates Focusing On The Wrong Age Group?

BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As National Eating Disorders Awareness Week – February 23 to March 2 – approaches, let's consider that the people who might be most in need of treatment are not college girls who played with Barbies or who are dieting for spring break – it could be adult women who are clogging eating disorder treatment centers in record numbers, and whose low recovery rates are not giving hope to younger women that a healthy adulthood lies ahead of them.

(Photo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140214/PH65726)

A new survey of American women between 18 and 30 reveals that in spite of decades of research, treatment advances and public awareness, the vast majority of young women – 75% – don't know any older women who have beaten an eating disorder and stayed in recovery; as a result, 55% of them don't believe they can live a life free of weight concerns.

Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, a pioneer in the eating disorder field who wrote the first autobiography by a bulimia survivor, "My Name is Caroline" (Doubleday 1988) and the first autobiography about how to get into recovery and stay in recovery for more than two decades, "Positively Caroline" (Cogent 2013), says that these new findings could point to why helping older women recover might be the most useful way to help younger women.

"There is an epidemic of middle-aged women – a 43% increase – streaming into eating disorder centers because they either never recovered from earlier struggles, or they are responding to midlife changes around divorce, empty nest, aging parents, health crises and hormone shifts by focusing on weight loss," Miller observes.  "If there aren't enough people in long-term recovery, how can the next generation have any hope for themselves?"

More troubling statistics:

  • A recent study of 1,900 women over 49 years found that 13% admitted having an eating disorder, 8% reported purging, and 62% said their weight or shape has a negative effect on their lives
  • 80% of anorexia-related deaths occur among women over 45

Miller, a magna cum laude Harvard graduate with a degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of several best-selling books.  She believes that the "science of happiness" can assist addiction recovery, a point she elaborates on in "Positively Caroline," which would be a breakthrough for the field.

SOURCE Caroline Adams Miller

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