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Psychol Med. 1993 May;23(2):437-51.

How abnormal is the desire for slimness? A survey of eating attitudes and behaviour among Chinese undergraduates in Hong Kong.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin.


Using the 40-item Eating Attitudes Test and other self-report questions, a two-stage screening survey of 1020 (F 646, M 374) Chinese bilingual university students in Hong Kong showed that although female students were 'underweight' by Western standard, the majority of them and nearly all female students above a body mass index of 20.5 kg/m2 were cognitively inclined to diet and weigh less, albeit without being driven to actual weight control behaviour. In contrast, most male students and a minority of constitutionally thin female students clearly wished to gain weight. While a number of items were culturally inappropriate, factor analysis supported the overall cross-cultural conceptual validity of the EAT. The principal factor, reflecting dieting concerns, correlated positively with the current body mass index. Among the high scorers, only three female students with partial syndrome bulimia nervosa were identified, yielding a low prevalence of 0.46% for the spectrum of eating disorders. It is argued that the desire for slimness is widespread but its intensity and pathogenic potentiality vary across cultures. In the relative absence of obesity, it may not lead to more eating disorder.

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