A large-scale survey of eating disorder symptomatology among female adolescents in the People's Republic of China




This study was designed to document comprehensively the prevalence of the signs, symptoms, and associated features of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa among schoolgirls in the People's Republic of China.


Female participants were recruited from both junior and senior high schools with varying levels of academic performance in six cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zunyi, Xin Xiang, and Yinchuan) that are representative of different geographical regions in China (North East, Central East, South East, South West, North West, and North). In each school, girls were recruited across all grades, in order to cover ages 12–19 years. The final sample comprised 1,246 participants whose mean age was 15.76 years. The questionnaire, developed specifically for the purpose of this research, assessed the diagnostic criteria and associated features of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa outlined in the 4th ed. of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Results and Discussion

Our results have shown a surprisingly high level of weight-related concerns among schoolgirls across mainland China. There would seem to be few cases of anorexia or bulimia, although some girls satisfy criteria for partial diagnoses. Our findings highlight the difficulty of identifying girls who are underweight, at least by applying the standard Western procedure for categorizing body mass index. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 192–205, 2002.