Culture and eating disorders classification


  • Anne E. Becker MD, PhD, ScM

    Corresponding author
    1. Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
    • Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital-WAC 816C, 15 Parkman Street, Boston, MA 02114
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This paper discusses cultural considerations for classification of eating disorders.


The literature on epidemiology and phenomenology of eating disorders in culturally diverse populations was selectively reviewed to identify methodologic challenges in classification and characterization of prevalence and phenomenology.


Prevalence of eating disorders among culturally diverse populations is incompletely characterized. Few studies address the epidemiology of eating disorders or provide qualitative data on variation in presentation in these populations. Unrecognized cultural diversity may result in misclassification of cases.


Development of culturally valid assessments, ethnographic data on indigenous nosologic correlates and idioms of distress, and attention to phenomenologic diversity may have critical impact on understanding clinical presentations and risk factors that may be culturally particular. A flexible classificatory system for the eating disorders may help to encompass their culturally based phenomenologic diversity, facilitate culturally sensitive and strategic prevention strategies, and reduce ethnic disparities in access to care for them. © 2007 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2007