National Eating Disorders Association

People of Color and Eating DisordersEating disorders have historically been associated with heterosexual, young, white females, but in reality, they affect people from all demographics of all ethnicities at similar rates. People of color – especially African Americans – are significantly less likely to receive help for their eating issues.

  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging (Goeree, Sovinsky, & Iorio, 2011).
  • In a study of adolescents, researchers found that Hispanics were significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers. The researchers also reported a trend towards a higher prevalence of binge eating disorder in all minority groups. (Swanson, 2011).
  • Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian youth all reported attempting to lose weight at similar rates, while among of Native American adolescents, 48.1% were attempting weight loss (Kilpatrick, Ohannessian, & Bartholomew, 1999). 
  • People of color with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were significantly less likely than white participants to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms, despite similar rates of eating disorder symptoms across ethnic groups. (Becker, 2003).


Women of color in the United States face substantially more stress resulting from their membership in multiple subordinate groups than that caused by acculturation alone. Eating disorders in women of color may be, in part, a response to environmental stress (i.e. abuse, racism, poverty). Therefore, given the multiple traumas that women of color are exposed to, they may be more vulnerable to eating disorders. 

When presented with identical case studies demonstrating disordered eating symptoms in white, Hispanic and Black women, clinicians were asked to identify if the woman’s eating behavior was problematic. 44% identified the white woman’s behavior as problematic; 41% identified the Hispanic woman’s behavior as problematic, and only 17% identified the Black woman’s behavior as problematic. The clinicians were also less likely to recommend that the Black woman should receive professional help (Gordon, Brattole, Wingate, & Joiner, 2006).

Infographic: Marginalized Voices

Marginalized Voices InfographicGet the facts on marginalized voices and eating disorders with our infographic!

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