Eating disorders and related psychological features among Arabs and Jews in Israel: Does culture play a moderating role?

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Eating disorders (EDs) have been documented in various cultural settings. A continuous increase in ED’ rates among non-Western cultures (e.g., Arab cultures and East-Asian cultures) has been reported. We aimed to investigate the relations among culture, ED symptoms, and psychological features that are highly relevant in EDs through a cultural comparison of three groups. The groups included female university students in Israel with varying levels of exposure to Westernization: 118 Jewish students, 132 Arab students studying at a mixed university with a Jewish majority, and 111 Arab students studying at Sakhnin College, a college for Arab students only. The groups differed significantly on the Conservation Value dimension from the Short Portrait Values Questionnaire. Four psychological features were examined as predictors of ED symptoms: Interoceptive-deficits, Ineffectiveness, Asceticism, and Maturity-fear. The results revealed a comparable prevalence of self-reported ED symptoms among Arabs and Jews, with a small exception for bulimic symptoms, which were less prevalent among those in the Sakhnin group, who also scored lower on Ineffectiveness and higher on asceticism than the other groups. Testing the relations between the four psychological features and ED symptoms revealed that culture played a moderating role in predicting the strength of ineffectiveness and maturity-fear. Ineffectiveness was not a predictor among the Sakhnin group, whereas maturity-fear was not a predictor in the least conservative Jewish group. Asceticism and interoceptive-deficits predicted ED symptoms across all study groups. Our findings indicate that the problem of EDs may be similar among Arab and Jewish women in Israel. Moreover, despite some similarities in the relevance of some ED-related psychological features, other features are moderated by culture.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Early online date14 Feb 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Arab women
  • asceticism
  • eating disorders
  • ineffectiveness
  • interoceptive-deficits
  • maturity-fear
  • non-Western cultures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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