The Myth of Chinese Barbies: eating disorders in China including Hong Kong



Accessible summary

  • Eating disorders have been found in Chinese populations.
  • Chinese patients may not report the fear of gaining weight.
  • Westernization may be linked to an increase of cases, but its role is unclear.


Much of the literature on eating disorders deals with Western subjects. Although the majority of those seen in clinical settings are Caucasians, reports from Asia suggest that anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa do occur in the Chinese, sparking debate as to whether or not it is the result of Westernization. This project begins with a review of the current literature on eating disorders in Chinese populations and the role of culture as a mediating factor. A psychodynamic conceptualization and the potential role of traumatic experiences are explored in the emergence of pathological eating habits. Research suggests that applying Western models for Chinese subjects with eating disorders may not always be appropriate.