Disordered eating and religious observance: A focus on ultra-orthodox Jews in an adult community study




To broaden the socio-cultural context of eating disturbances by exploring religious observance and its presumed protective role for ultra-Orthodox women.


Detailed telephone interviews with community sample of adult Jewish women in Israel, including 261 ultra-Orthodox. Frequency of 14 symptoms of disordered eating (DEB) assessed. Hierarchical regressions examine predictors of DEB severity within observance categories (ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Traditional, and Secular).


Contrary to expectations, no significant differences were found in the frequency of serious DEB between the most and least religiously observant, ultra-Orthodox, and Secular women. Regressions reveal similar predictors of DEB severity (obesity followed by self-criticism) as well as substantial variations in amount of variance explained.


Apparently, rigorous religious adherence does not protect ultra-Orthodox women from serious eating problems. Additional analyses can inform socio-cultural perspectives by examining the connection between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in this insular and isolated religious community, whose exposure to secular media is prohibited. © 2011 by Wiley Periodicals,Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)