Gay and Bisexual Men Have Higher Rates of Disordered Eating


Confirming results of several other studies, this recent study showed that gay/bisexual men have significantly higher symptoms indicative of eating disorders as compared to heterosexual men. In this study, no significant differences were observed between rates of eating disorders in lesbian/bisexual women and heterosexual women, or between diverse ethnic minorities.

The study compared 388 racially diverse LGB men and women with a reference group of 128 white heterosexuals. Participants were sampled from a variety of venues in New York City between February 2004 and January 2005.

  • Full syndrome and subclinical evaluation of eating disorders included: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating
  • Data was stratified into racial categories, including: white, black, and Latino

The study results found:

  • Gay and bisexual men were 3.8 times (1.1 to 13; 95% CI) more likely to have had any clinical or subclinical symptoms of eating disorders compared to heterosexual men
  • A higher percentage of lesbian and bisexual women reported clinical or subclinical symptoms of eating disorders compared to heterosexual women, but the observed difference was not significant (OR 1.2 (0.4 to 3.5; 95% CI)).
  • Significantly higher rates of bulimia and subclinical bulimia in gay/bisexual men compared to heterosexual men

(Source: Feldman, Matthew & Ilan Meyer, 2007, “Eating Disorders in Diverse Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations,” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp. 218-226).

For Further Thought

  • What might be some causes of the higher rates of disordered eating among gay and bisexual men? What can be done to address this health disparity?
  • How can we train primary care providers to recognize and address eating disorders in gay and bisexual men?
  • What might be some possible protective factors that explain the lack of disparity in eating for lesbian/bisexual women?