Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Research into eating disorders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a relatively new but growing area of study.
However, the emerging research tells us that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience eating disorders and body image issues at similar or higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians.
We already know that anyone can experience an eating disorder. We also know that discrimination or exposure to traumatic life situations can increase a person’s risk for this illness. While we honour each individual’s experience, as well as community strength and resilience, we also acknowledge that Australia’s First Peoples may have experienced cultural trauma in ways that could lead to mental ill-health, body image issues, and disordered eating.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents are more likely to engage in activities to lose weight, increase weight and increase muscles than their non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peers
- In a 2019 survey, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young women (aged 15-19) rated body image as one of their top three concerns
- Approximately three in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are extremely or very concerned about their body image
- Eating disorders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents negatively impact their social and emotional life
- Binge eating disorders are as common, if not more common, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth
There is never one single risk factor for an eating disorder. It’s more likely the illness is due to a combination of causes – genetic vulnerability, psychological factors and socio-cultural influences such as discrimination, racism, and cultural trauma could be involved. Read more about risks and warning signs.
At Butterfly we support all Australians with lived experience of a body image issue or eating disorder. We are committed to reducing stigma around eating disorders and increasing help-seeking and support for everyone who is impacted.
We also understand that stereotypes about who experiences eating disorders are extremely unhelpful, so we’re committed to changing public perceptions. We’re also developing a Reconciliation Action Plan with Reconciliation Australia and we are an organisational member of Reconciliation NSW. Everyone at Butterfly has received Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training and we will continue to work on our cultural responsiveness.
Our team at Butterfly is trained to serve all Australians and is dedicated to answering your questions, providing referrals, sharing resources, and offering our very best care and support.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) represents 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues.
Mental First Aid Australia provides best practice guidelines for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet includes a directory of publications and programs dedicated to First Nations mental health.
Burt, A., Mitchison, D., Dale, E., Bussey, K., Trompeter, N., Lonergan, A., & Hay, P. (2020). Prevalence, features and health impacts of eating disorders amongst First-Australian Yiramarang (adolescents) and in comparison with other Australian adolescents. Journal Of Eating Disorders, 8(1). doi: 10.1186/s40337-020-0286-7