Racial/ethnic and gender differences in concern with weight and in bulimic behaviors among adolescents

Obes Res. 1997 Sep;5(5):447-54. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1997.tb00669.x.


This study examined cross-sectional gender and racial/ ethnic differences in bulimic behaviors among adolescents. Subjects were 704 male and 621 female students at a large urban public high school in the Northeast. Approximately 61% of the girls and 43% of the boys reported trying to lose weight or maintain their current weight; 2.0% of the students reported using laxatives or vomiting to control their weight. The use of these behaviors to control weight was only slightly more common among girls than boys (2.7% vs. 1.4%, p = 0.1). Although more black than white girls used laxatives or vomiting to control weight (odds ratio [OR] = 11.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.5-95.3), there were no racial/ethnic differences in these behaviors among boys. However, Hispanic boys were twice as likely as white boys to binge eat at least monthly (OR = 2.0, 95% CI 1.1-3.6). Our results suggest that bulimic behaviors affect male and female adolescents from a variety of racial/ethnic backgrounds. In addition, in contrast to the large gender differences in the prevalence of dieting and binge eating, more modest differences were documented in the prevalence of using vomiting and laxatives to control weight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Body Weight*
  • Bulimia / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia / ethnology
  • Cathartics
  • Continental Population Groups*
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Cathartics