Sexual orientation disparities in weight status in adolescence: findings from a prospective study

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Sep;17(9):1776-82. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.72. Epub 2009 Mar 19.


A growing number of studies among adult women have documented disparities in overweight adversely affecting lesbian and bisexual women, but few studies have examined sexual orientation-related patterns in weight status among men or adolescents. We examined sexual orientation group trends in BMI (kg/m(2)), BMI Z-scores, and overweight using 56,990 observations from 13,785 adolescent females and males in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS), a large prospective cohort of US youth. Participants provided self-reported information from six waves of questionnaire data collection from 1998 to 2005. Gender-stratified linear regression models were used to estimate BMI and BMI Z-scores and modified Poisson regression models to estimate risk ratios for overweight, controlling for age and race/ethnicity, with heterosexuals as the referent group. Among females, we observed fairly consistently elevated BMI in all sexual orientation minority groups relative to heterosexual peers. In contrast, among males we documented a sexual-orientation-by-age interaction indicating steeper increases in BMI with age from early-to-late adolescence in heterosexuals relative to sexual orientation minorities. Additional prospective research is needed to understand the determinants of observed sexual orientation disparities and to inform appropriate preventive and treatment interventions. The long-term health consequences of overweight are well-documented and over time are likely to exact a high toll on populations with elevated rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Bisexuality / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult