Cross-cultural research on anorexia nervosa: Assumptions regarding the role of body weight




To critically examine two assumptions guiding cross-cultural research on the weight concerns of anorexia nervosa: (1) that weight concerns are specific to contemporary, Western manifestations of the disorder and (2) that the dissemination of Western values regarding thinness is primarily responsible for the development of anorexia nervosa in non-Western contexts.


A review of theoretical and empirical literature on cross-cultural aspects of anorexia nervosa and the medical records of 14 Asian patients treated for eating disorders in Sydney, Australia.

Results and Discussion

Regarding the first assumption: It is argued that weight concerns when defined as weight loss that is positively valued (rather than a fat phobia) is a defininig characteristic of anorexia nervosa and is not limited to contemporary, Western cases of the disorder. Regarding the second assumption: It is argued that the occurrence of anorexia nervosa in non-Western contexts cannot be solely attributed to the acceptance of Western thinness ideals because values and practices intrinsic to non-Western cultures are also likely to be etiologically relevant. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 29: 205-215, 2001.