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Int J Eat Disord. 1998 Apr;23(3):287-94.

Body weight preoccupation in middle-age and ageing women: a general population survey.

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Division of Psychosomatic and Psychosocial Medicine, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.



The desired weights and dieting behavior of a sample of 1,053 women aged 30-74 years in the general population of Geneva, Switzerland, were explored by means of a questionnaire. Multivariate analyses of variance were performed.


Twenty-five percent of the women were satisfied with their weight, whereas 71% wanted to be thinner, although 73% of them were at normal weight. Among women older than 65 years, 62% wanted to lose weight, 65% of them being at normal weight. For women wanting to lose weight, mean desired weight loss amounted to 9% of their current weight. Weight dissatisfaction increased with higher education (p < .001), and with increasing current weight (p < .001). Within the last 5 years, 42% of the women had dieted for weight control, including 67% at normal weight. Thirty-one percent of the women older than 65 years had also dieted, 62% of them being at normal weight.


A majority of middle-age and ageing women in this general population sample expressed dissatisfaction about their weight. Many attempted dieting, even when they were at normal weight. Considering the vulnerability of the elderly to nutritional deficiencies, dieting to lose weight in normal weight ageing women should be discouraged or closely monitored.

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