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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Socioeconomic Status: It's Not What You Think

Abstract

Many people (incorrectly) believe that eating disorders (ED) are more prevalent in the higher socioeconomic status (SES) groups. Studies conducted in the 1960s and 70s corroborate this statement; however, their methods may have biased the results. Recent studies using health questionnaires distributed to large heterogeneous populations have shown that EDs equally effect all people, regardless of SES. These studies have also demonstrated that females of the lower SES group report higher rates of disordered eating behavior (vomiting, use of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives as a means to lose weight). Girls that exhibit disordered eating behavior are more likely to develop EDs later in life. Physicians need to be aware of this knowledge in order to screen patients for the signs of EDs. More research is necessary to understand why females of low SES employ such methods of weight loss.

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