A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that gay, lesbian, bisexual and “mostly heterosexual” teens were more likely to engage in unhealthy eating practices such as binge eating and purging than were their heterosexual peers.
The study, a collaboration between Harvard University and the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, did not address gender identity or gender expression
in its findings.
The study was based on self-reporting data and analytical observations from 13,795 youth from the age range of 12–23. The participants were given questionnaires during six waves of data collection, focusing on recent past instances of purging and binge eating.
Across the gender spectrum, people who identified as “bisexual” or “mostly heterosexual” had more incidences of purging than did both their heterosexual and their lesbian/gay peers.
Temporal patterns also play a big role in unhealthy eating behaviors, the research proved, as disparities between straight and LGBT students’ eating were obvious early in adolescence and largely persisted through time. This means that, starting even earlier than high school, parents, counselors and other youth healthcare providers need to be mindful that LGBT youth are at an elevated risk for eating disorders.
This is particularly important since behaviors such as binge eating, purging, excessive exercising and fasting have very harmful psychological and developmental effects on youth. The study called for more research that will examine ways to develop programs that will help prevent self-destructive eating behaviors in LGBT youth.