Disordered eating behaviors among transgender youth: Probability profiles from risk and protective factors

Int J Eat Disord. 2017 May;50(5):515-522. doi: 10.1002/eat.22627. Epub 2016 Nov 12.


Purpose: Research has documented high rates of disordered eating for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, but prevalence and patterns of disordered eating among transgender youth remain unexplored. This is despite unique challenges faced by this group, including gender-related body image and the use of hormones. We explore the relationship between disordered eating and risk and protective factors for transgender youth.

Methods: An online survey of 923 transgender youth (aged 14-25) across Canada was conducted, primarily using measures from existing youth health surveys. Analyses were stratified by gender identity and included logistic regressions with probability profiles to illustrate combinations of risk and protective factors for eating disordered behaviors.

Results: Enacted stigma (the higher rates of harassment and discrimination sexual minority youth experience) was linked to higher odds of reported past year binge eating and fasting or vomiting to lose weight, while protective factors, including family connectedness, school connectedness, caring friends, and social support, were linked to lower odds of past year disordered eating. Youth with the highest levels of enacted stigma and no protective factors had high probabilities of past year eating disordered behaviors.

Discussion: Our study found high prevalence of disorders. Risk for these behaviors was linked to stigma and violence exposure, but offset by social supports. Health professionals should assess transgender youth for disordered eating behaviors and supportive resources. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.(Int J Eat Disord 2017; 50:515-522).

Keywords: adolescent; binge eating; eating disorders; transgender.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Young Adult