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Ethnicity, Education, Income and Bulimia

An important new study challenges the widespread perception that bulimia primarily affects privileged, white teenagers. Rather, girls who are African American are 50 percent more likely than girls who are white to be bulimic. An analysis of the survey results reveals:

  • • Black girls were 50 percent more likely than white girls to exhibit bulimic behavior, including both binging and purging. About 2.6 percent of black girls were clinically bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of white girls. Overall, approximately 2.2 percent of the girls surveyed were clinically bulimic, close to the national average.
  • • Black girls scored an average of 17 percentage points higher than their white counterparts on the widely used medical index gauging of the severity of the bulimia, the researchers found.
  • • Girls from families in the lowest income bracket were significantly more likely to experience bulimia than their wealthier peers.
  • • Bulimia affected 1.5 percent of girls in households where at least one parent had a college degree.
  • • For girls whose parents had a high school education or less, the rate of bulimia was more than double — 3.3 percent were bulimic.