Academic journal article Journal of Eating Disorders

Publications on Cross-Cultural Aspects of Eating Disorders

Academic journal article Journal of Eating Disorders

Publications on Cross-Cultural Aspects of Eating Disorders

Article excerpt

Author(s): Nerissa Li-Wey Soh[sup.1] and Garry Walter[sup.2]


Eating disorders were previously thought to be "Western culture-bound syndromes", with non-Western individuals being considered immune. Articles on non-Western populations and eating disorders first appeared in the international scientific literature in the 1970s [1]. The prevalence of eating disorders in non-Western groups has been found to be generally lower than that in Western populations but appears to be increasing [1-3]. This epidemiological pattern may not reflect true incidence rates but instead may indicate improving international awareness and identification. For example, anorexia nervosa was already documented in Japan and in Japanese in 1941 and Japanese records detail a psychological "non-eating" illness dating back to the 17[]-18[] century [1]. International published research in recent years also shows mixed conclusions in relation to whether eating disorders present differently in different cultural groups [1]. Debate over the criteria for diagnosing eating disorders in non-Western, non-Caucasian groups [4], together with the frequent failure of health professionals themselves to identify eating disorders in these populations [5], suggests that the prevalence in such groups may currently be underestimated.

Despite the apparent increase of eating disorders in non-Western groups [1-3], there has been relatively little research published on eating disorders across cultures. Studies of eating disorders in non-Western cultural groups and countries have focused mainly on African Americans and results from such research cannot necessarily be applied to other non-Western populations. More information is needed to provide culturally appropriate and acceptable treatments for individuals with eating disorders from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Recent years have also witnessed an increasing popularity in bibliometric studies, which analyse publication patterns provide information about the current status and research priorities of particular scientific and medical fields [6-8]. To date, bibliometric research regarding articles published about the various ethnic and cultural dimensions of eating disorders has not been undertaken. The present study aims to provide a profile of the articles about eating disorders across cultures which were published from 1970 through to 2011.


Medline and PsycInfo were selected as the databases, as they are extensively used by health researchers and clinicians. Citations relating to eating disorders and ethnic and cultural groups were then retrieved (search terms and strategies are available in the Additional file 1: Appendix).

Following retrieval of all citations, duplicates were removed with the preference of retaining Medline citations. Citations were then manually culled to remove articles not directly related to eating disorders as a psychiatric illness and articles not related to cross-cultural issues. Citations were retained if they were: on non-Western study samples, including if they were in non-Western languages; on ethnic minority groups in a Western country; solely on Western populations but which studied two or more countries and compared cultures; validated psychometric tools in non-English languages, including "Western European" languages such as French or the Scandinavian languages; on body dysmorphia, body image related to body building, or muscle dysmorphia; journal articles reviewing books; editorials, letters or comments. Citations were excluded if they: focused on obesity and did not include a significant body image and psychopathological component; were about pica, geophagia or infant feeding difficulties; focused on socio-economic status and socio-cultural issues and did not have a significant ethnicity or cross-country component; were on body image or body perception following surgery, cancer, burns and amputations but did not have an eating disorder psychopathological component; focused on eating habits or patterns without a psychological component; focused on the colour of skin or hair without a body shape or weight factor; were on sexual orientation but without a significant ethnicity or cross-country component; were solely on Western populations and cultures, including USA, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Scandinavia; did not address ethnicity or culture even though the article was in a non-English language; or were for grey literature (e. …

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