New York: Young women who are attracted to both sexes or who are unsure about who they are attracted to are more likely to develop an eating disorder than those attracted to only one sex, reveals a new study.
According to researchers from Philadelphia-based Drexel University, females attracted to the same-sex, however, are no more likely to experience disordered eating symptoms than their peers with opposite-sex attractions.
This finding is contrary to previous assumptions that same-sex attraction plays a protective role against eating pathology in females.
“The results suggests there may be notable differences in disordered eating symptoms across Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer (LGBQ) persons,” said lead author Annie Shearer from Drexel University's centre for family intervention science
The study also found that males who were attracted to other males or both sexes had higher rates of eating disorders than males only attracted to the opposite sex.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers surveyed over 2,000 youths in the 14-24 age group.
In order to define sexual behaviour, participants were asked whom they had engaged in sexual activities: males, females or both.
Among females who reported being attracted to both sexes had significantly higher disordered eating scores than those only attracted to one sex.
More surprisingly, females who were unsure of who they were attracted to reported the highest disordered eating symptoms scores of all.
As expected, males who were attracted to other males exhibited significantly higher disordered eating scores than those only attracted to members of the opposite sex.
“This study highlights the need to increase sensitivity to the unique needs of sexual minority youth as a group and for the particularly sub groups in that population,” noted Guy S Diamond, PhD, associate professor and director of the centre for family intervention science who co-authored the study.
Given the severe physical and emotional repercussions of eating disorders, these findings underscore the need for primary care physicians to ask about both sexuality and disordered eating symptoms during routine visits.
The study is forthcoming in the journal Eating Behaviors.