Eating Disorder Statistics in the LGBT Community

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Common myth: Eating disorders primarily affect young, white, straight females.

Actual reality: Eating disorders can impact anyone and everyone; they affect people across all demographics, and there is no single, root cause for eating disorders.

Generally speaking, eating disorders stem from a mixture of long-standing emotional, psychological, cultural, and social factors.

But if eating disorders are equal opportunity offenders, they do impact some populations at disproportionate rates—and there are some sobering eating disorder statistics that suggest the LGBT community is especially impacted by eating disorders.

To get an idea of how bad the problem really is, consider some of these startling eating disorder statistics:

 

  • Beginning at age 12, teenagers who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual have a markedly higher-than-normal risk of binging and purging.
  • Gay and bisexual boys are more likely than their heterosexual peers to vomit, fast, or take laxatives in an effort to control body image issues.
  • Females who identify as lesbian or bisexual are twice as likely to engage in binge-eating at least once per month.
  • Among men who have eating disorders, a staggering 42 percent identify as gay; to put that into perspective, only about five percent of the total male population identifies as gay.

These eating disorder statistics show a community in crisis—and one of the big reasons is a general lack of awareness and education within the LGBT community. Other factors include feelings of discordance between sexual identity and physical body; and, high stressors such as anxieties over coming out and the threat of violence and bullying.

The news is grim, but not hopeless. What it underscores is the need to facilitate education about eating disorders within LGBT communities—and to address these disorders in a spirit of true compassion and empathy.

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