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Eat Weight Disord. 2000 Dec;5(4):183-97.

Eating disorders in the Far East.

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Department of Mental Hygiene, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205-1099, USA.



To investigate eating disorders (EDs) prevalence rates among Asian populations and identify characteristics that distinguish them from their Western counterparts.


Potential references were identified through an English-language literature search using Medline, Psychinfo, Dissertation Abstracts (1966 to 1999) and through extensive manual searching of textbooks, reviews and reference lists.


The majority of studies related to EDs were conducted in Japan and China and a few were conducted in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Korea whereas there was none in the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand. Prevalence rates in Japan range from 0.025 to 0.030% for anorexia nervosa (AN) and from 1.9 to 2.9% for bulimia nervosa (BN). Community studies in China have found the AN prevalence to be 0.01% and BN rates ranging from 0.5% to 1.3%. These rates are lower than ED rates in the West (particularly the U.S. and Britain). Body dissatisfaction (BD) and dieting rates, however, were similar to those in the West. BD rates ranged from 68% (Taiwan) to 81% (Korea) and dieting rates ranged from 34% (Taiwan) to 68% (Japan). Sociocultural and developmental risk factors were relevant to this population.


EDs in Asian populations have received little attention because they have been predominantly viewed as associated with Western culture. Classified by many as a "culture-bound syndrome" of the West, they may really be a culture-change syndrome.

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