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Ethnicity and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are often perceived to be an affliction of Caucasian girls and young women in middle and upper socioeconomic classes. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of cases are being seen in men and women of all different ethnic and cultural groups.
Girls and women from all ethnic and racial groups may suffer from eating disorders and disordered eating. The specific nature of the most common eating problems, as well as risk and protective factors, may vary from group to group, but no population is exempt.
Research findings regarding prevalence rates and specific types of problems among particular groups are limited, but it is evident that disturbed eating behaviors and attitudes occur across all cultures.

Statistics on Eating Disorders and Age

While eating disorders tend to peak between adolescence and early adulthood, the incidence and prevalence has shown an increase in all age groups. For instance, eating disorders are increasing rapidly among prepubertal girls. Disordered eating habits and concern with weight and body image are beginning at earlier ages -- even in girls as young as nine years of age. A recent study found that 70 percent of sixth-grade girls surveyed reported that they first became concerned about their weight between the ages of 9 and 11.
Eating disorders are also becoming more common among elderly women. This is, in part, due to people maintaining the eating disorder into old age. Also, elderly women have been shown to initiate weight control practices, such as bingeing and purging.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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