Culture and Eating Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2003 Volume 14, Number 4
©2003 Gürze Books

A study of eating disorders patients on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border has added more evidence that cultural factors can affect the course of eating disorders.

A group of 87 patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified were treated at the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatria in Mexico City and matched with 87 eating disorders patients treated at the New York Presbyterian Hospital (Int J Eat Disord 2003;34:136). All patients were then interviewed with the appropriate Spanish or English version of the Yale-Brown-Cornell Eating Disorder Scale (YBC-EDS).

According to Drs. A. R. Caballero, Katherine Halmi, and S.R. Sunday, each score on the YBC-EDS scale was higher for the Mexican patients than for the American patients. The Mexican patients also reported a greater number of current preoccupations and rituals than did the American patients. The Mexican group was more likely to have rituals in all categories, and these rituals were more egosyntonic.

More U.S. patients had had previous treatment for their eating disorder, and a negative correlation was found between the amount of previous treatment and motivation to change the preoccupations and rituals (higher scores were an indication of lower motivation to change). The researchers also found that having prior treatment seemed to positively influence the U.S. patients’ motivation for further treatment.

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