Researchers have generally believed bulimia nervosa affects predominantly white, affluent women. However, a recent study indicates this may not, in fact, be the case. Bulimia nervosa, may rather affect mostly black woman and those with lower incomes.
USC economist Michelle Goeree as well as fellow economists John Ham from the University of Maryland and Daniela Iorio from the Universitat de Autonoma in Barcelona Spain conducted a 10-year survey with more than 2,300 girls in schools in California, Washington, D.C., and Ohio to determine who really is affected by bulimia. Starting at age 9 or 10 years old the participants were surveyed every year regarding their eating habits as well as psychological characteristics that often accompany bulimia, such as depression and body image.
The results showed that black girls were 50% more likely to suffer from bulimic behavior, including binging and purging, than white girls. More specifically, while 1.7% of white girls were clinically bulimic, 2.6% of black girls were clinically bulimic. Overall, approximately 2.2% of all girls who were surveyed were clinically bulimic, which is close to the national average. Black girls also scored higher on a commonly used index to gage the severity of bulimia.
Bulimia was present among 1.5% of girls who had at least one parent with a college education. However, 3.3% of girls with parents with a high school diploma or less suffered from bulimia.
Finally, girls who had the lowest incomes were significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia than those in the highest income brackets.
The researchers assert that most studies of bulimia get their data from hospitals. Those who are able to be treated in a hospital are most often those who have good insurance and/or can pay out of pocket for eating disorder treatment. Those who have low income or who do not have a lot of education may not have insurance or may not be able to afford eating disorder treatment.
The researchers argue that bulimia may be better off classified as an addiction, given the presence of bulimia among lower income and less educated individuals. This way, they argue, more federal, state, and local treatment programs can be created for bulimia and the out-of-pocket costs to families can be reduced.
Psych Central: Black Girls At Risk for Bulimia