Eating attitudes and behaviors in 1,435 South African Caucasian and non-Caucasian college students

Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Feb;155(2):250-4. doi: 10.1176/ajp.155.2.250.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the presence and severity of eating disorder pathology in students representing South Africa's ethnically and culturally diverse population.

Method: A questionnaire survey, which involved the Eating Attitude Test and the Bulimic Investigatory Test, was administered to 1,435 South African college students (739 Caucasian and 696 non-Caucasian) from six universities in two urban centers.

Results: Black students scored significantly higher than the other ethnic groups on these measures. In addition, a comparable percentage of black and Caucasian female students had scores within the clinical range on these scales. Male students scored consistently lower than female students.

Conclusions: This study's findings challenge the notion that eating disorders are primarily a Western, Caucasian phenomenon and raise the possibility that the risk of eating disorders may increase in developing societies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Attitude
  • Culture
  • Developing Countries
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data