Context: Recurrent binge eating is a core diagnostic feature of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, and in samples of white women has been associated with obesity and psychiatric symptoms. Eating disorders have been believed to occur primarily among white women; in fact, the limited preliminary data available suggest that black women may be as likely as white women to report binge eating.
Objective: To examine race differences in prevalence of behavioral symptoms of eating disorders and clinically significant recurrent binge eating.
Design: Community survey.
Setting: General community in Connecticut and Boston, Mass.
Participants: A community sample of 1628 black women and 5741 white women (mean age, 29.7 years) participated in a telephone survey designed to ascertain the presence, during the preceding 3 months, of binge eating and extreme weight control behaviors (vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, or fasting).
Main outcome measure: Interviewer-based phone assessment of recurrent binge eating and behavioral symptoms of eating disorders.
Results: Black women were as likely as white women to report binge eating or vomiting during the preceding 3 months, and were more likely to report fasting and the abuse of laxatives or diuretics. Recurrent binge eating was more common among black women than among white women. In both race groups, recurrent binge eating was associated with elevated body weight and increased psychiatric symptoms.
Conclusion: Results suggest that recurrent binge eating is a significant problem among black and white women. Health professionals need to be ready to respond to this health risk behavior.