Friday, November 1, 2019

Sexual Minorities Found to Be at Elevated Risk for Eating Disorders

People who are homosexual, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual orientation have both a higher risk and a higher rate of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder than people who are heterosexual, a study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders has found. Although prior research suggests that members of sexual minorities have a higher risk of eating disorder symptoms than heterosexuals, this study is believed to be the first to use data from a large number of people to determine how common eating disorders are among sexual minority members.

Rebecca C. Kamody, Ph.D., of Yale University School of Medicine and colleagues analyzed data from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III), a survey of roughly 36,000 U.S. adults. The NESARC-III determined if participants had eating disorders based on whether their responses suggested that they met the DSM-5 criteria for eating disorders. They found that eating disorders occurred at the following rates among sexual minorities and heterosexuals:

  • Anorexia nervosa occurred in 1.71% of members of sexual minorities, compared with 0.77% of heterosexuals.
  • Bulimia nervosa occurred in 1.25% of members of sexual minorities, compared with 0.24% of heterosexuals.
  • Binge eating disorder occurred in 2.17% of members of sexual minorities, compared with 0.81% of heterosexuals.
  • Anorexia nervosa occurs in 3.78% of members of sexual minorities who experienced discrimination. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of bulimia or binge eating disorder in those who perceived discrimination

Compared with heterosexuals, members of sexual minorities may be nearly twice as likely to develop anorexia, more than three times as likely to develop bulimia nervosa, and more than twice as likely to develop binge eating disorder at some point in their lives, the study found.

“While there has been an impetus in recent years to increase diversity in [eating disorder] research, … the present study highlights the importance of diversifying further [eating disorder] research in order to inform the development of more responsive evidence-based interventions tailored to individual needs,” Kamody and colleagues wrote. “This may serve as a first step in reducing disparities and promoting health among sexual minority populations.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Brief Update and Review on Treating Eating Disorders,” by James Lock, M.D., Ph.D.

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