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Comparisons were made between two groups of anorectic patients, ‘non-white’ and ‘white‘, on a variety of clinical and social characteristics.
The study is based on a 34-year long database (1960–93) associated with a national tertiary referral centre. Thirty-six non-white patients meeting DSM–III–R criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN) and five with ‘partial syndrome’ are compared with a white group comprising 944 patients with full syndrome.
The main finding is clinical similarity between the two groups, extending to social class and pathological patterns of family relationship. The non-whites are shorter in stature (P = 0.004) and report earlier menarche (P = 0.004); they are younger at presentation (P < 0.001), somewhat less emaciated, and practice veganism slightly more commonly; they less often acknowledge sensitivity to ‘fatness’ (P < 0.003). This sensitivity was exposed later whenever treatment involved substantial weight gain. The proportion of non-white cases accepted for assessment has not changed in respect of year of onset (around 6%) for the last 20 years, or year of presentation (around 6–7%) over the last 15 years. There was a tendency for non-white patients to be referred earlier in their illness.
The clinical and background profiles of non-white and white anorectics are generally similar. The numbers arising and presenting have not changed recently. Non-white patients apparently have as ready access as white patients to assessment and treatment by us.
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