Victoria University psychology lecturer Dr Lyndsey Nolan has found that dangerous eating behaviour is now commonplace with women in their 40s and 50s.
Dr Nolan, who also works at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Eating Disorders Unit, surveyed women aged 18 to 65. The results were staggering, with women as old as 60 admitting to dangerous types of dieting because of body dissatisfaction.
"The findings are particularly alarming because it seems that dangerous eating behaviour has become commonplace. Women have begun to resort to destructive means to achieve weight loss,'' Dr Nolan said.
Almost half of the 209 women who took part in the study said they had engaged in at least one episode of vomiting, laxative/diuretic abuse or uncontrolled binge eating to control their weight in the past six months.
"The results showed that many of them had engaged in multiple dangerous eating behaviours, which is even more distressing and alarming. It shows that these women aren't just using one of these destructive weight loss methods to achieve a sense of thinness, they're using several methods.''
Dr Nolan said many women remained silent about their eating disorders for too long.
"I've worked with people who haven't sought treatment for Bulimia nervosa for 10 years, and then decide they've got a problem and seek help. That's 10 years of serious destructive behaviour; emotionally, psychologically and physically.''
"It is worrying that the overall feedback from women about their body image was negative, self-defeating and derogative, which highlighted themes of passivity, helplessness, dependence on others, and abject failure.