Statistics Show LGBT+ People More Likely To Experience Eating Disorders

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Recent reports from the Department of Health illustrate that LGBT+ people are disproportionately affected.

A girl holds her head in her hands.

The Department of Health and Children estimates that up to 200,000 people in Ireland may be affected by eating disorders, with an estimated 400 new cases emerging each year, accounting for 80 deaths annually.

A number of factors like the stresses of coming out, bullying, anxiety, depression, fear of rejection by family and friends, internalised negative messages and beliefs about oneself, to sexual orientation can leave members of the LGBT vulnerable to developing eating disorders.

US-based website, National Eating Disorders.org provides some worrying statistics:

  • In one study, gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited, or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight in the last 30 days.
  • Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
  • Gay males were seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.
  • Compared with heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime full syndrome bulimia, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder.
  • Females identified as lesbian, bisexual, or mostly heterosexual were about twice as likely to report binge-eating at least once per month in the last year.
  • Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.

Among the most interesting findings from the US research, is the fact that having a sense of connectedness to the gay community appeared to be related to fewer current eating disorders, suggesting that feeling connected to the gay community may have a ‘protective’ effect.

With this in mind, it is important to reach out and let someone who cares about you know if you are dealing with issues around eating disorders. Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, offers support, guidance and information for anyone battling these issues.

You can contact Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, helpline on: 1890 200 444, or email [email protected] for support.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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