By Tamika Thompson from Tavis Smiley-PBS
In 2005, The New York Times published an article called “Blacks Join the Eating-Disorder Mainstream.” The article explained that “more blacks and other minorities have been seeking help from eating disorder clinics” and that “[n]o reliable numbers exist for how many minority women suffer from eating problems, but experts suspect that cases are increasing.”
Yesterday, I shared my conversation with Stephanie Covington Armstrong, author of Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat, whose story of struggle to overcome childhood trauma, as well as an eating disorder that she developed in adulthood, serves as a cautionary tale to those who think that bulimia doesn’t impact members of the African American community.
Today, I wanted to share my conversation with Michelle Goeree, a USC economics professor, who, along with researchers from the University of Maryland and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, published “Caught in the Bulimic Trap?”
Their study found that African American girls are 50% more likely to be bulimic than White girls and that girls from low-income families are more likely to be bulimic than girls from middle- and high-income families.
Goeree says those results surprised her.
“Prior to this research, we also held the popular conception that eating disorders (and bulimia) were more common among girls from White, mid-to-high income families,” Goeree says.
“We were less surprised after we realized that insurance may not cover the expensive doctor visit where a girl with an eating disorder gets diagnosed,” she adds.
“If two girls both suffer from bulimia nervosa, but one is from a low-income family and the other from a high-income family, which girl is most likely to be diagnosed if it requires a visit to the expensive psychiatrist?” Goeree asks.
“Girls who are African American and/or come from low-income families are much less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder conditional on having an eating disorder,” Goeree says.
In other words, we all have the idea that bulimia impacts middle-class white girls because they are more likely to receive the diagnosis when, according to the study, African American girls are more likely to exhibit and persist in bulimic behavior…