Exploring Barriers to South Asian Help-Seeking for Eating Disorders




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


Mental Health Review Journal



Peer reviewed



Purpose Referrals to specialist eating disorder services from the South Asian (SA) community are under-represented, despite research suggesting that disordered eating attitudes and behaviours of SA people are similar to the population in general. The study aimed to identify the reasons for this and sought to inform ways to encourage help-seeking. Design/Methodology/Approach A qualitative methodology was used to investigate barriers to help-seeking for eating disorders among the SA community. A key informant focus group was conducted with clinicians working within the local specialist eating disorder service (participants n=16, 12 female, 4 male). Six focus groups were conducted with members of the SA community in Leicester, UK, (participants n=28, 23 female, 5 male) recruited from a local university, two charities and Children, Young People & Family Centres. Findings A number of themes emerged as possible factors for delaying early access to help: lack of knowledge about eating disorders and their potential seriousness; ideals regarding body shape; family living circumstances, and the role of food in the community. Participants acknowledged stigma among their community associated with mental health issues, including eating disorders, and concerns about confidentiality when approaching services, particularly primary care.
Originality/value General practitioners and specialist services need to be aware of the potential barriers to help-seeking for eating disorders as early specialist help is recommended for effective treatment. An educational campaign around eating disorders specifically designed with the SA community in mind may improve awareness, reduce stigma and promote early help-seeking.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Eating disorders, help-seeking, barriers, mental health, South Asian, ethnicity


Wales J, Brewin N, Raghavan R and Arcelus J (2017) Exploring Barriers to South Asian Help-Seeking for Eating Disorders, Mental Health Review Journal, 22 (1), pp. 40-50


Research Institute

Mary Seacole Research Centre