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Ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and eating disorder symptomatology in Canada: implications for mental health care

Jennifer A. Boisvert (Clinical Psychologist, in Independent Practice, Long Beach, California, USA)
W. Andrew Harrell (Professor Emeritus, of the Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1757-0980

Article publication date: 9 December 2014




There is a gap in the understanding of relationships between socioeconomic status (SES), urban-rural differences, ethnicity and eating disorder symptomatology. This gap has implications for access to treatment and the effectiveness of treatment. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Data are presented from a major Canadian survey, analyzing the impact of body mass index (BMI), urban-non-urban residency, income, and ethnicity on eating disorder symptomatology.


One of the strongest findings is that high income non-White women expressed less eating disorder symptomatology than lower income non-White women.

Research limitations/implications

Future research needs to consider how factors such as urban residency, exposure to Western “thinness” ideals, and income differentials impact non-White women.

Practical implications

Effective treatment of ethnic minority women requires an appreciation of complicated effects of “culture clash,” income and BMI on eating disorder symptomatology.


This study makes a unique contribution to the literature by examining relationships between SES (income) and eating disorder symptomatology in White and non-White Canadian women. The review of the scientific literature on ethnic differences in eating disorder symptomatology revealed a disparity gap in treatment. This disparity may be a by-product of bias and lack of understanding of gender or ethnic/cultural differences by practitioners.



A. Boisvert, J. and Andrew Harrell, W. (2014), "Ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and eating disorder symptomatology in Canada: implications for mental health care", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 158-177.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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