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The impact of transcultural migration on body image and disordered eating

School of Psychology and Sport Science

About the Project

Research Group: Centre for Societies and Groups

Proposed supervisory team: Prof Viren Swami

Theme: Body Image and Eating Disorders

Summary of the research project

Negative body image and eating disorders were historically characterised as culture-bound experiences, primarily afflicting women in high-income, industrialized, and Western societies. However, reports of high rates of negative body image and disordered eating globally have changed this perspective. One factor that may increase the risk of negative body image is cultural change (e.g., via transcultural migration). According to this hypothesis, eating disorders are more likely to develop because of the high levels of stress associated with cultural change. However, few studies have directly tested this hypothesis and available data tends to be cross-sectional in nature.

We seek a PhD student with an interest in cross-cultural psychology to advance existing research on the effects of transcultural migration on negative body image and disordered eating. The successful candidate will conduct longitudinal research that seeks to examine the long-term impact that migration across cultures has on symptoms of disordered eating and aspects of body image.

Knowledge and/or experience of longitudinal, quantitative study design is essential, and knowledge of body image and eating disorders across cultural groups is desirable. The candidate will work with the supervisory team to identify suitable samples to recruit, translate and validate measures for use, and examine conduct longitudinal research to examine rates of negative body image and symptoms of disordered eating pre- and post-migration. The candidate will also evaluate culture-specific factors that may promote or protect individuals from negative body image and disordered eating in migrant groups. For an example of this type of research, see Swami, V., 2016. Change in risk factors for eating disorder symptomatology in Malay students sojourning in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(7), pp.695-700.

To discuss the project informally prior to application, please contact Prof Viren Swami -

Where you’ll study

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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