A new study suggests that lesbian and bisexual women are at a higher risk of being overweight compared to heterosexual women. The study involved more than 90,000 British adults which also found that gay men are less likely to be overweight compared to straight men. The research was published in the Journal of Public Health and is the first of its kind to look into the relationship between sexual orientation and body mass in the UK.
The researchers, who are from the University of East Anglia, said that sexual identity should be considered as a social determinant of health. The study was able to find that women who identified as a lesbian were 41% more likely to be overweight or obese compared to straight women while bisexual women had a 24% increased risk of the same, Daily Mail reported.
Meanwhile, gay men were found to be 28% less likely to be overweight or obese as opposed to straight men. Bisexual men were found to be no more or less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be overweight. However, the researchers also found that gay men were three times as likely as straight men to be clinically underweight and bisexual men were found to be twice as likely for the same.
Dr. Joanna Semlyen, from UEA's Norwich Medical School and the lead researcher of the study, said: "We found that women who identify as lesbian or bisexual are at an increased risk of being overweight or obese, compared to heterosexual women.
This is worrying because being overweight and obese are known risk factors for a number of conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and early death."
She added: "Conversely, gay and bisexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to be underweight, and there is growing evidence that being underweight is linked to a range of health problems too, including excess deaths. We also found that gay men are significantly less likely than straight men to be overweight or obese. This study demonstrates that there is a relationship between sexual identity and BMI and that this link appears to be different for men and women."
Dr. Semlyen also said that there are a few possible explanations for the findings in the study. She said: "We know that sexual minority groups are more likely to be exposed to psychosocial stressors, which impacts on their mental health and their health behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use and which may influence their health behaviors such as diet or physical activity. These stressors include homophobia and heterosexism, negative experiences that are experienced by the lesbian, bisexual and gay population as a result of their sexual orientation identity and are known to be linked to health."
She concluded: "We hope that policymakers and clinicians will be able to use this fresh evidence to provide better healthcare and tailored advice and interventions for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. We need longitudinal research to understand the factors underlying the relationship between sexual orientation and BMI, and research to understand more about being underweight, especially in this population."