The relationship between socioeconomic status and eating-disordered behaviors in a community sample of adolescent girls

Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Jul;22(1):15-23. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199707)22:1<15::aid-eat2>;2-5.


Objective: Although previous research has demonstrated a relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and weight, the research has not been consistent regarding the relationship between SES and eating disorders. This analysis was designed to examine this relationship in a large community sample of adolescent girls (Grades 7 to 12).

Method: Items were selected from a comprehensive self-report health survey completed by 17,571 adolescent girls. The relationships between SES and dieting behaviors and attitudes were examined using chi-square tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA) to control for body mass index.

Results: Although there was a significant positive relationship between SES and some of the unhealthy dieting behaviors, there was no relationship between self-report of clinically significant eating-disordered behaviors (e.g., vomiting twice a week or more) and SES in this community sample.

Discussion: This study suggests that while there may be a significant relationship between SES and dieting or other behaviors associated with eating disorders, this relationship does not apply to diagnostically significant behaviors. SES may be associated with differences in dieting or eating behaviors; however, among those young women who meet psychiatric criteria for an eating disorder, SES does not appear to be a significant factor.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Bulimia / epidemiology
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors*