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Title: Body change and body image in older adulthood
Author: Court, Gudrun Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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Background: In the course of their lives, individuals evolve a body image, which can be challenged due to ageing. Individuals who have difficulties reconciling their body image with reality may resort to various strategies, such as exercise and dieting, in order to cope. These behaviours may in turn result in more severe psychological problems, e.g. eating disorders, which are under researched in older adults. Body image, body change, physical illness and ways of coping with ageing have been researched to various degrees in older adults, but these findings have not been integrated. To justify the further investigation of eating disorders in older adults, these previous findings should be integrated and confirmed in a representative sample of the general population. The aim of this study was to assess gender differences in body image and to explore the associations between physical & psychological health and body image in an older adult non-clinical sample. Methods: The study was between groups, cross-sectional in design comprising of a single administration of a combined self-report questionnaire as no intervention requiring a follow up was offered. The non-clinical sample was recruited through multiple channels i.e. community centres, church groups and the staff of a large teaching hospital. 103 women aged 50-96 and 57 men aged 50-84 returned a total of 160 completed questionnaires (80.0% of the questionnaires distributed). Results: Older women were found to have more body image concerns than older men. Older women's body image concern was found to be associated with BMI, whereas older men's body image concern was associated with BMI and physical health. Older women and men presented with similar negative attitudes towards ageing. Both older women and older men desired weight loss despite being of normal weight, although this was more common in older women. Physical illness was not associated with psychological symptoms, physical illness was directly associated with body image concerns in older men only, while body image concerns in older women were associated with age controlling behaviours. Summary: The current study demonstrates that the many of the associations relating to body image in younger populations are also present in older adults. These results, in combination with the literature on the aetiology of eating disorders, which emphasises the association with body image discontent, provides sufficient justification for epidemiological work to establish the prevalence of eating disorders in older adults. Ultimately, the current study serves as a staging point between the vast literature on body image in younger populations & the limited literature on body image in older adults and future research investigating gender differences in the components of body images.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available