Change in binge eating and binge eating disorder associated with migration from Mexico to the US

Sonja A. Swanson, Naomi Saito, Guilherme Borges, Corina Benjet, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, Joshua Breslau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Exposure to Western popular culture is hypothesized to increase risk for eating disorders. This study tests this hypothesis with respect to the proposed diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in an epidemiological sample of people of Mexican origin in Mexico and the US. Data come from the Mexico National Comorbidity Survey, National Comorbidity Survey Replication, and National Latino and Asian American Survey (N = 2268). Diagnoses were assessed with the WMH-CIDI. Six groups were compared: Mexicans with no migrant family members, Mexicans with at least one migrant family member, Mexican return-migrants, Mexican-born migrants in the US, and two successive generations of Mexican-Americans in the US. The lifetime prevalence of BED was 1.6% in Mexico and 2.2% among Mexican-Americans. Compared with Mexicans in families with migrants, risk for BED was higher in US-born Mexican-Americans with two US-born parents (aHR = 2.58, 95% CI 1.12-5.93). This effect was attenuated by 24% (aHR = 1.97, 95% CI 0.84-4.62) with adjustment for prior-onset depressive or anxiety disorder. Adjustment for prior-onset conduct disorder increased the magnitude of association (aHR = 2.75, 95% CI 1.22-6.20). A similar pattern was observed for binge eating. Among respondents reporting binge eating, onset in the US (vs. Mexico) was not associated with prevalence of further eating disorder symptoms. Migration from Mexico to the US is associated with an increased risk for BED that may be partially attributable to non-specific influences on internalizing disorders. Among respondents reporting binge eating in either country, similar levels of further symptoms were endorsed, suggesting some cross-cultural generalizability of criteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Binge eating disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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