Ethnicity and body dissatisfaction: are Hispanic and Asian girls at increased risk for eating disorders?

J Adolesc Health. 1996 Dec;19(6):384-93. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(96)00087-0.


Purpose: To compare prevalences and correlates of body dissatisfaction among white, Hispanic, and Asian girls.

Methods: A total of 939 6th and 7th grade girls (mean age 12.4 years) attending four middle schools in northern California completed self-administered assessments of age, ethnicity, desired body shape, parent education levels, mother's and father's body shapes, pubertal stage, and body dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction was assessed with the Body Dissatisfaction scale of the Eating Disorder Inventory. Height, weight, triceps skinfold thickness, and waist and hip circumferences were measured by trained examiners.

Results: Hispanic girls reported significantly greater body dissatisfaction than white girls, with Asian girls in-between. After adjustment for body mass index (weight/height), normal and overweight white, Hispanic, and Asian girls reported similar levels of body dissatisfaction. However, among the leanest 25% of girls, Hispanics and Asians reported significantly more body dissatisfaction than white girls. Body mass index was the strongest independent predictor of increased body dissatisfaction in all three ethnic groups. Shorter height among white girls and taller height among Asian girls also made significant independent contributions. Parent education level, a measure of socioeconomic status, was not significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.

Conclusions: Body dissatisfaction is not limited to white girls in middle and upper socioeconomic strata. These findings suggest Hispanic and Asian girls may be at greater risk for adopting eating disorder behaviors than previously recognized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asian Americans*
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology