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Longstanding biases have fostered the erroneous notion that only those of higher socioeconomic status (SES) experience eating disorders (EDs); however, EDs present across all SES strata. Considering the dearth of ED research among those of lower SES, this study examined (1) the overall association between SES and ED prevalence, and (2) ED prevalence in the context of four relevant social identities (i.e. SES, gender identity, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity) from an intersectional perspective, as unique combinations of multiple social identities may differentially influence risk.
A sample of 120 891 undergraduate/graduate students from the Healthy Minds Study self-reported family SES with a single-item question, gender identity, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity, and were screened for ED risk.
Participants of lower SES had 1.27 (95% CI 1.25–1.30) times greater prevalence of a positive ED screen than those of higher SES. Substantial heterogeneity was observed across the four social identities beyond the association with SES. For example, positive ED screens were particularly common among lower SES, Latinx, sexual minority cisgender men and women, with 52% of bisexual men and 52% of lesbian women of Latinx ethnicity and lower SES screening positive.
Although positive ED screens were more common among undergraduate/graduate students of lower SES, the particularly high ED risk reported by certain groups of lower SES with multiple minority identities reinforces the importance of investigating multi-layered constructs of identity when identifying groups at disproportionate risk.
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