East Asian cultures place increasing levels of importance on body image (Zhang et al., 2018), and East and Southeast Asian Americans have lower rates of body satisfaction than South Asian and White Americans (Pishori, 2011). However, little is known about how these vary across generations. We examine the differences in eating disorder characteristics between first and second-generation Asian Americans, and differences between those reporting Indian and Chinese ethnicities.
Methods: Asian Americans (n=131) were anonymously surveyed using the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q), measuring 4 subscores of eating disorder characteristics: Restraint, Eating Concern, Shape Concern, and Weight Concern. Surveys were distributed through a collaboration with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and across anonymous social media platforms from June 27, 2021 to August 7, 2021.
Results: The analysis consisted of 131 responses, of which 76 (58.01%) were first-generation and 55 (41.98%) were second-generation, representing 15 ethnic groups, with 5 individuals (03.81%) who identified with more than one ethnicity. Only two ethnic groups, Chinese and Indian, had more than 5 individuals that represented them, so inferences were only drawn along ethnic lines between 41 Chinese respondents (31.29%) and 56 Indian respondents (42.74%). Those belonging to more than one ethnicity were excluded from the ethnicity-based analysis.
Across generations, concerns revolved more around Shape and Weight Concern than Restraint or Eating Concern. However, there was no significant difference between the prevalence of any subscore between first and second-generation respondents. Separated ethnically, Chinese and Indian Americans maintained these concerns.
Conclusions: We did not find significant differences in self-reported eating disorder symptoms between first and second-generation or between Chinese and Indian respondents which suggests that generation or ethnicity alone may not be risk factors of developing eating disorders in Asian Americans. Investigation into other risk factors and the assimilation of food and body image among Asian Americans is needed.