Sexual Minority Stressors, Internalizing Symptoms, and Unhealthy Eating Behaviors in Sexual Minority Youth

Ann Behav Med. 2015 Dec;49(6):839-52. doi: 10.1007/s12160-015-9718-z.


Background: Sexual minorities are more likely than heterosexuals to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine sexual minority stressors and internalizing symptoms as predictors of unhealthy eating behaviors among sexual minority youths.

Methods: We used longitudinal data from 1461 sexual minority youths in the Growing Up Today Study, across ages 14-28 years. We hypothesized that sexual minority stressors would predict unhealthy eating behaviors, in part due to internalizing symptoms. Linear regression models fit via generalized estimating equations were stratified by gender and sexual orientation.

Results: Significant positive and inverse associations between stressors and eating behaviors were detected among females and males, with more significant associations among females. Associations were attenuated by up to 71 % for females and 12 % for males when internalizing symptoms were added to the models.

Conclusions: Sexual minority stressors predicted unhealthy eating behaviors overall and more so for some sexual orientation and gender groups; associations were partially explained by internalizing symptoms. The conceptual model appears to best describe the experiences of bisexual females. Findings have clinical implications for adolescent health.

Keywords: Coping mechanisms; Disinhibited eating; Internalizing symptoms; Minority stress; Sexual minority.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Minority Health
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult