Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 184–187 | Cite as

Eating disorders: The cultural dimension

  • Mervat Nasser


The role of socio-cultural factors in the pathogenesis of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia has been the object of recent interest. The phenomena, mainly described in the West, were partly attributed to the idealisation of thinness in Western culture. The paper reviews published epidemiological research from non-western countries in the area of eating disorders to elucidate the difference in prevalence, allowing for the lack of clarity in some of the methodology and the absence of operational criteria to define and diagnose the particular syndromes in these studies. The paper also examines research findings of the effect of cultural change on body weight. There is a strong indication that cultural change, i. e. identification with Western norms in relation to body weight, is consistently followed with an increase in weight consciousness and the risk of developing eating disorders.


Public Health Body Weight Anorexia Nervosa Research Finding Eating Disorder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bruch H (1973) Eating disorders, obesity, Anorexia Nervosa and the person within. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Buhrich N (1981) Frequency of presentation of Anorexia Nervosa in Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. J Psychiatry 15: 153–155Google Scholar
  3. Button EJ, Whitehouse A (1981) Subclinical Anorexia Nervosa. Psychol Med 11: 509–516Google Scholar
  4. Carlos AL (1972) Psychiatry in Latin America. Br J Psychiatry 121:121–136Google Scholar
  5. Chiodo SJ, Latimer PR (1983) Vomiting as a learned weight-control technique in Bulimia. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 14: 131–135Google Scholar
  6. Cooper PJ, Fairburn CG (1982) Binge eating and self induced vomiting in the community. A preliminary study. Br J Psychiatry 15: 1955–2025Google Scholar
  7. Crisp AH, Palmer PL, Kalucy RS (1976) How common is Anorexia Nervosa? Prevalent study. Br J Psychiatry 128 (5). 549–54Google Scholar
  8. Duddle M (1973) An increase in Anorexia Nervosa in a university population. Br J Psychiatry 123: 711–712Google Scholar
  9. El Sarag ME (1968) Psychiatry in Northern Sudan: a study in comparative psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry 114: 946–948Google Scholar
  10. Fichter MM, Weyerer S, Sourdi L, Sourdi Z (1983) Anorexia nervosa. In: Liss AR (ed) Recent developments in research. New York, pp 95–105Google Scholar
  11. Ford CS, Beach FA (1952) Patterns of sexual behaviour. Ace Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Furnham AC, Alibhai N (1983) Cross cultural differences in the perception of female body shape. Psychol Med 13: 829–837Google Scholar
  13. Garner DM, Garfmkel PE (1980) Socio-cultural factors in the development of Anorexia Nervosa. Psychol Med 10: 647–656Google Scholar
  14. Garner DM, Garfmkel PE, Schwartz D, Thompson M (1980) Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychol Rep 47: 483–491Google Scholar
  15. German GA (1972) Aspects of clinical psychiatry in sub-Sahran Africa. Br J Psychiatry 121: 461–479Google Scholar
  16. Goldblatt PB, Moore ME, Stunkard AJ (1965) Social factors in obesity. JAMA 192Google Scholar
  17. Halmi KA, Jones RF, Schwertz E (1981) Binge eating and vomiting. A survey of a college population. Psychol Med 11: 697–706Google Scholar
  18. Hamadi S (1960) The temperament and character of the Arabs. TwayneGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones DJ, Fox MM, Babigan HM, Hutton HE (1980) Epidemiology of Anorexia Nervosa in Monroe County, New York 1960–1976. Psychosom Med 42: 551–558Google Scholar
  20. King M, Mezey G (1987) Eating behaviour of male racing jockeys. Psychol Med 17: 249–253Google Scholar
  21. Mann AH, Wakeling A, Wood K, Monck E, Dobbs R, Szmukler G (1983) Screening for abnormal eating attitudes and psychiatric morbidity in an unselected population of 15 year old schoolgirls. Psychol Med 13: 573–580Google Scholar
  22. Mead M (1947) Concept of culture and psychosomatic approach. Psychiatry 10: 57–76Google Scholar
  23. Meyer JE, Gallwitz AT (1968) A study on social image, body image and the problem of psychogenic factors in obesity. Compr Psychiatry 9Google Scholar
  24. Morgan HG, Russell GFM (1975) Value of family backgrounds and clinical features as predictors of long-term outcome in Anorexia Nervosa: four year follow-up study of 41 patients. Psychol Med 5: 355–371Google Scholar
  25. Nasser M (1986) Comparative study of the prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes among Arab female students at both London and Cairo universities. Psychol Med 16: 621–625Google Scholar
  26. Neki JS (1973) Psychiatry in South East Asia. Br J Psychiatry 123:257–269Google Scholar
  27. Nogami (1984) Presented at the International Conference of Eating Disorders, Swansea, UK (unpublished)Google Scholar
  28. Nylander J (1971) The feeling of being fat and dieting in a school population. Acta Sociomed Scand 1: 17–26Google Scholar
  29. Okasha A, Kamel M, Sadek A, Lotaif F, Bishry Z (1977) Psychiatric morbidity among university students in Egypt. Br J Psychiatry 131: 149–154Google Scholar
  30. Orbach S (1978) Fat is a feminist issue. Paddington Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Powers PS (1980) Obesity: the regulation of weight. William, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  32. Rudofsky B (1972) The unfashionable human body. Doubleday, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Szmukler GI (1983) Weight and food pre-occupation in a population of English school girls. In: Bargmun GS (ed) Understanding Anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Fourth Ross Conference on Medical Research. Ross Laboratories, Ohio, pp 21–27Google Scholar
  34. Theander S (1970) Anorexia Nervosa, a psychiatric investigation of 94 female patients. Acta Psychiatr Scand [Suppl] 214: 1–194Google Scholar
  35. Worsley A (1981) In the eye of the beholder: social and personal characteristics of teenagers and their impressions of themselves and fat and slim people. Br J Med Psychol 54: 231–242Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mervat Nasser
    • 1
  1. 1.c/o Dr. Paul Bebbington MRC Social Psychiatry UnitInstitute of PsychiatryLondonEngland

Personalised recommendations