The menopausal transition—A possible window of vulnerability for eating pathology

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No published studies, to our knowledge, have examined the association of menopausal status with eating disorders and body image in women. We assessed these associations in a large sample of middle-aged women.


We administered an anonymous questionnaire to a randomly selected nonclinical sample of women aged 40–60 in Innsbruck, Austria. The questionnaire covered demographic items, menopausal status, weight history, measures of body image, and current eating disorders as diagnosed by DSM-IV criteria. Using modified WHO criteria, we classified the respondents' current stage of menopausal transition as premenopausal (N = 192), perimenopausal (N = 110), or naturally postmenopausal (N = 134). In a separate analysis, we also examined the small group of women with surgically induced menopause (N = 12).


The three groups were similar in all demographic features except age, and did not differ significantly on current body mass index (BMI), weight-control behaviors, or dieting history after age adjustment. However, perimenopausal women reported a significantly greater prevalence of eating disorders as compared to premenopausal women. Perimenopausal women also reported significantly higher self-ratings of “feeling fat” and higher Body Shape Questionnaire scores than premenopausal women. Women with surgically induced menopause also showed an elevated prevalence of eating and body image pathology.


Our data suggest that the menopausal transition is associated with an increased prevalence of eating disorders and negative body image. Menopause, like puberty, may perhaps represent a window of vulnerability to these conditions, likely because of changes in hormonal function, body composition, and conceptions of womanhood. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013; 46:609–616)

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