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Eating disorders among international migrants: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

PURPOSE: Migrants may have elevated exposure to stressors, which can affect their physical and mental well-being. However, migrants often experience a healthy immigrant effect, the applicability of this phenomena to eating disorders is unknown. We aimed to synthesize the available literature and estimate a summary measure of prevalence odds ratio for eating disorders in migrant populations compared to local populations.

METHODS: A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, and Web of Science with keywords on migration and eating disorders. Inclusion criteria involved using a validated eating disorder scale and having a comparator group. Two independent reviewers performed study screening and data extraction. The NIH Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies was used to assess risk of bias. Random-effects models of meta-analysis were applied to compare eating disorder prevalence between migrants and local populations.

RESULTS: There were 10 studies included in our review (meta-analysis = 6, narrative synthesis = 4). Studies provided prevalence estimates for: any eating disorder, binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. Among studies with a diagnostic instrument, the pooled prevalence odds ratio (POR) between migrants and local populations for any eating disorder was 0.45 (95%CI: 0.35-0.59). However, a subgroup analysis of eating disorder instruments among studies using risk assessment tools demonstrated inconsistent findings, with both increases and decreases in prevalence.

CONCLUSION: Migrants were found to have a lower prevalence of eating disorders compared to local populations, supporting the healthy immigrant hypothesis. However, this effect differs between diagnostic and risk assessment tools.

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