People who are homosexual, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual orientation are more likely than their heterosexual peers to have symptoms of an eating disorder, a study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders has found. The study also suggests that there are differences in symptoms between men and women in this population.
Benjamin F. Shepherd, M.Ed., of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and colleagues examined data from approximately 36,000 adults who participated in the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III). Among the participants, 69.5% identified as White; 56.3%, female; 96.2%, heterosexual; 3.2%, lesbian/gay; 1.6%, bisexual; and 0.5% identified as unsure of their sexual orientation. Participants were asked about their lowest adult weight, eating habits, and thoughts about weight and their bodies.
Overall, men who identified as gay/lesbian, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual orientation had 1.76 times the odds of reporting a BMI lower than 18.5 compared with heterosexual men. They also had 4.35 times the odds of fearing weight gain even when at their lowest weight and 3.13 times the odds of experiencing a loss of control when overeating compared with heterosexual men.
Women who identified as gay/lesbian, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual orientation had 2.25 times the odds of reporting ever having a binge-eating episode and 1.58 times the odds of engaging in weekly binge eating for at least three months compared with heterosexual women. Those who had a BMI lower than 18.5 were also more likely to perceive themselves as overweight compared with heterosexual women with a similarly low BMI.
“The incorporation of our findings into clinical work is strongly encouraged,” Shepherd and colleagues wrote. “For example, psychiatric assessments and interventions could be tailored to address the specific eating disorder symptoms and clinical presentations that are more commonly reported among sexual minoritized men and women.”
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