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Black girls are 50 percent more likely to be bulimic than white girls
Date:3/18/2009

An important new study challenges the widespread perception that bulimia primarily affects privileged, white teenagers such as "Gossip Girl" character Blair Waldorf, who battled bulimia on the show earlier this season.

Rather, girls who are African American are 50 percent more likely than girls who are white to be bulimic, the researchers found, and girls from families in the lowest income bracket studied are 153 percent more likely to be bulimic than girls from the highest income bracket.

"As it turns out, we learned something surprising from our data about who bulimia actually affects, not just who is diagnosed," says USC economist Michelle Goeree.

Using data from a 10-year survey of more than 2,300 girls in schools in California, Ohio and Washington, D.C., Goeree and fellow economists John Ham (University of Maryland) and Daniela Iorio (Universitat de Autonoma Barcelona, Spain) sought to uncover a more accurate picture of bulimia among young girls. Beginning at age nine or 10, participants were surveyed annually about eating habits and affiliated psychological issues such as body image and depression.

"The difference between public perception and our results is striking," Goeree says.

An analysis of the survey results reveals:

  • Black girls were 50 percent more likely than white girls to exhibit bulimic behavior, including both binging and purging. About 2.6 percent of black girls were clinically bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of white girls. Overall, approximately 2.2 percent of the girls surveyed were clinically bulimic, close to the national average.
  • Black girls scored an average of 17 percentage points higher than their white counterparts on the widely used medical index gauging of the severity of the bulimia, the researchers found.
  • Girls from families in the lowest income bracket were significantly more likely to experience bulimia than their wealthier peers.
  • Bulimia affect
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Contact: Suzanne Wu
suzanne.wu@usc.edu
213-740-0252
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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