Ethnic origins of patients attending specialist eating disorders services in a multiethnic urban catchment area in the United Kingdom




This study considered the impact of ethnicity on the referral process for patients with eating disorders, at the levels of referral rate, diagnosis, and treatment offered.


A catchment area cohort of 648 patients was referred and assessed at specialist eating disorders services in a multiethnic urban area (all boroughs in South London, UK). Each patient was diagnosed and offered treatment (or an alternative appropriate end-point to the referral), and self-identified their ethnicity. For comparison purposes, the local ethnic minority population was taken from census data.


Ethnic minority patients were substantially less likely to be referred to the services than white patients, relative to the local population. The ethnic minority group were more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa, and less likely to be found to have no eating disorder. However, the treatments offered did not differ substantially across the ethnic groups.


Referrals to specialist eating disorder services do not reflect local populations' ethnic composition, though this disparity seems to be less by the time that the patient is offered treatment. It will be important to determine the source of these ethnic differences, and to take steps to reduce them. © 2008 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord, 2009