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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;160(7):1326-31.

Eating disorders in white and black women.

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Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, CT, 06459, USA.



Epidemiological studies of eating disorders in the United States have focused on white women and girls, and the prevalence of eating disorders in ethnic minority groups is unknown. This study examined the prevalence of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder in a geographically and economically diverse community sample of young white and black women who previously participated in the 10-year National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Growth and Health Study.


All NHLBI Growth and Health Study participants were recruited for this study. A two-stage case finding method was used, consisting of a telephone screening (sensitivity=0.90, specificity=0.98) and an in-person confirmatory diagnostic interview.


A total of 86.0% of the original NHLBI Growth and Health Study cohort participated, including 985 white women (mean age=21.3) and 1,061 black women (mean age=21.5). Fifteen white (1.5%) and no black women met lifetime criteria for anorexia nervosa; more white women (N=23, 2.3%) than black women (N=4, 0.4%) met criteria for bulimia nervosa; binge eating disorder also was more common among white women (N=27, 2.7%) than black women (N=15, 1.4%). Few women (white: N=16, 28.1%; black: N=1, 5.3%) ever had received treatment for an eating disorder.


Results suggest that eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are more common among white women than among black women. The low treatment rates in both groups suggest that health professionals need to be more alert to the possibility of eating disorders in women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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