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Open Access Research article

Eating disorder features in indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian Peoples

Phillipa J Hay12* and Chris Carriage1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked bag 1797, Penrith 2750, NSW, Australia

2 School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:233  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-233

Published: 23 March 2012



Obesity and related cardiovascular and metabolic conditions are well recognized problems for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, there is a dearth of research on relevant eating disorders (EDs) such as binge eating disorder in these groups.


Data were obtained from interviews of 3047 (in 2005) and 3034 (in 2008) adults who were participants in a randomly selected South Australian household survey of individuals' age > 15 years. The interviewed comprised a general health survey in which ED questions were embedded. Data were weighted according to national census results and comprised key features of ED symptoms.


In 2005 there were 94 (85 weighted) First Australian respondents, and in 2008 65 (70 weighted). Controlling for secular differences, in 2005 rates of objective binge eating and levels of weight and shape influence on self-evaluation were significantly higher in indigenous compared to non-indigenous participants, but no significant differences were found in ED features in 2008.


Whilst results on small numbers must be interpreted with caution, the main finding was consistent over the two samples. For First Australians ED symptoms are at least as frequent as for non-indigenous Australians.