Prevalence and correlates of bulimia nervosa and bulimic behaviors in a racially diverse sample of undergraduate students in two universities in Southeast Texas

Amy R. Pemberton, Sally W. Vernon, Eun Lee

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This cross-sectional survey used a self-report questionnaire to measure the prevalence and correlates of bulimia nervosa and bulimic behaviors in a sample of undergraduate students enrolled in two state-supported universities in Texas in 1990. In one university, the student population was predominantly white; in the other, it was predominantly nonwhite. Bulimia status was assessed using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised (DSM-III-R), of the American Psychiatric Association and was operationalized using the Revised Bulimia Test. Overall, 0.9% of the sample, 1.3% of the females, and 0.2% of the males were classified as having bulimia nervosa. The prevalence of bulimic behaviors was 5.4% overall, 6.6% for females, and 3.6% for males. There was no racial/ethnic difference in the prevalence of bulimia nervosa or bulimic behaviors; 1.5% of the whites (n = 459) and 0.4% of the nonwhites (n = 693) were classified as having bulimia nervosa, while 5.5% of the whites and 5.3% of the nonwhites reported bulimic behaviors. In univariate analysis, female sex, obesity, dieting behavior, and a family history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression were statistically associated with bulimic behaviors. After adjustment for covariates, only obesity and dieting behavior were statistically significant. We concluded that the sex difference in bulimic behaviors reported in other studies may be due to the failure to control for confounding factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-455
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 1996
Externally publishedYes



  • bulimia
  • eating disorders
  • prevalence
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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