Weight a minute! Lesbians are really fatter? Study says yes
On the other hand, gay men have been found to be, on average, thinner than straight men
Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight than heterosexual women, research has shown for the first time, as experts said sexual identity should now be viewed as a health risk factor.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia studied 12 British national health surveys involving more than 93,000 people, which recorded body mass index (BMI) and sexuality, and found a striking link between weight and sexual orientation.
For women, being gay increased the odds of them being overweight by 41%, an increased overall risk of 14%. It means you would expect an extra eight gay women of an unhealthy size in every 100 compared to heterosexual women (65% compared with 57%).
Bisexual women were 24% more likely to be overweight or obese, but for men, the opposite was the case, with gay men at three times the risk of being underweight.
“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,” said lead researcher Dr Joanna Semlyen, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School.
“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.”
According to the most recent figures from Britain’s office for national statistics, the percentage of people identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual is now 2% of the population in Britain, although the Treasury has put the figure at 6%, or 3.6 million people.
London had the largest proportion of the population who identified as LGB (2.7%), and the east of England had the lowest (1.2%).
Researchers are unclear what is driving the increased risk, but say gay people are more likely to experience social stress and live less healthy lifestyles.
The new results showed more than a third of gay people smoked, compared with about a quarter of straight people. Likewise, 48% were living with a longstanding illness compared with 28% of heterosexuals.
Dr Semlyen added: “We know that sexual minority groups are more likely to be exposed to psychosocial stressors, which impacts on their mental health and their health behaviours such as smoking and alcohol use, and which may influence their health behaviours such as diet or physical activity.
“Routinely asking or recording sexual orientation would go some way to address this for LGB people, and at the same time, would lead to a better understanding of health inequalities experienced by this population.”
The research was published in The Journal of Public Health.
– © The Daily Telegraph