Research Spotlight: Sexual Minorities Disproportionately Affected by Eating Disorders

Dr. Udo smiles at the camera.

Dr. Tomoko Udo and colleagues at Yale University recently studied disparities in eating disorder diagnoses, finding that sexual minorities had higher prevalence rates than heterosexual respondents for all eating disorders.

“Research suggests that sexual minorities may be at an elevated risk for many psychiatric disorders,” says Dr. Udo. “In this study, we looked at whether lifetime prevalence estimates of eating disorders differed by sexual orientation and perceived discrimination due to sexual orientation among a nationally representative sample of adults who completed the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III from 2012-2013.”

Results showed that sexual minorities may be disproportionately affected by eating disorders. Prevalence rates for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder were higher among sexual minorities than heterosexual respondents, and odds of lifetime diagnosis were significantly greater even after adjusting for key sociodemographic variables. The study also found that perceived discrimination due to sexual orientation may particularly increase risk for anorexia among sexual minorities.

“Eating disorder research has overwhelmingly focused on cisgender, heterosexual females,” says Dr. Udo. “Our results showcase the importance of diversifying eating disorder research in order to create responses and interventions tailored to individual needs. This approach may help to reduce disparities and promote better health among sexual minorities.”

Full results from the study are published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.