Unraveling the ‘Japanese Paradox’

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2001 Volume 12, Number 3
©2001 Gürze Books

High body mass index (BMI) is a well-known ingredient of body dissatisfaction and increased risk for eating disorders. Researchers have found that BMI is not a good predictor of body dissatisfaction in all ethnic groups. Despite low BMIs overall, Japanese females scored very highly on measures of body dissatisfaction.

Alayne Yates, MD, and colleagues at John Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, explored the paradox in a study of 211 Caucasian, 155 Japanese, 112 African-American, 79 Filipino, 70 Chinese, 70 Hawaiian/part Hawaiian, and 124 multiethnic college students. The students were asked to complete figure drawings (an index of body dissatisfaction), the self-loathing subscale (SLSS), an exercise-based scale that is highly correlated with eating disorders assessment methods, the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (subsample only), and a symptom self-report inventory, and eating disorder symptoms.

Japanese women had highest body dissatisfaction scores

Dr. Yates and colleagues found highly significant BMI/ethnic group differences. Japanese females scored the lowest on BMI yet had the highest SLSS and body dissatisfaction scores. There were no significant between-group differences in SLSS or body dissatisfaction.

The authors believe that decreased body-reality checks and increased body dissatisfaction among Japanese females interact to increase their risk for an eating disorder. Further, they suggest that a useful strategy in cross-cultural research would be to factor the BMI score into the body dissatisfaction score, to produce a total body perception score.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed