Estimated prevalence of eating disorders in Malaysia based on a diagnostic screen

Sook Ning Chua, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, S. Bryn Austin, Denise E. Wilfley, C. Barr Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Eating disorders (EDs) are debilitating health conditions and common across cultures. Recent reports suggest that about 14.0% of university students in Malaysia are at risk for developing an ED, and that prevalence may differ by ethnicity and gender. However, less is known about the prevalence of EDs in nonuniversity populations. Objective: The current study seeks to (1) estimate the prevalence of EDs and ED risk status among adults in Malaysia using an established diagnostic screen; (2) examine gender and ethnic differences between ED diagnostic/risk status groups; and (3) characterize the clinical profile of individuals who screen positive for an ED. Method: We administered the Stanford-Washington University Eating Disorder Screen, an online ED screening tool, to adults in Malaysia in September 2020. Results: ED risk/diagnostic categories were assigned to 818 participants (ages 18–73 years) of which, 0.8% screened positive for anorexia nervosa, 1.4% for bulimia nervosa, 0.1% for binge-ED, 51.4% for other specified feeding or ED, and 4.8% for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. There was gender parity in the high risk and the overall ED categories. The point prevalence of positive eating pathology screening among Malays was significantly higher than Chinese but no different from Indians. Discussion: This is the first study to estimate the prevalence of EDs using a diagnostic screen in a population-based sample of Malaysians. It is concerning that over 50% of Malaysians reported symptoms of EDs. This study highlights the need to invest more resources in understanding and managing eating pathology in Malaysia. Public Significance: This study estimates the prevalence of EDs among adults in Malaysia using an online EDs screen. Over 50% of Malaysians report symptoms of EDs. The study highlights the need for more resources and funding to address this important public health issue through surveillance, prevention, and treatment of EDs in Malaysia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-775
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Malaysia
  • adult
  • ethnic groups
  • feeding and eating disorders
  • gender
  • prevalence


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