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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identify Linked to Eating Disorders

Transgender and non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual students are at greater risk for eating disorders, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the Washington University School of Medicine.

Alexis Duncan

Dr. Alexis Duncan

The study used data from the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), a survey of 289,024 students from 223 U.S. universities. Researchers found that the rates of self-reported eating disorders were highest in transgender people. Heterosexual men had the lowest rates.

“Transgender people were more likely to report a diagnosis of an eating disorder — bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa — in the past year,” said senior author Dr. Alexis Duncan, assistant professor at the Brown School. “They also reported using vomiting, laxatives or diet pills more for weight control in the past 30 days than cisgender men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The ACHA-NCHA survey, the authors wrote in the study, “includes the largest number of transgender participants ever to be surveyed about eating disorders and compensatory behaviors, thus enabling us to conduct statistically powerful analyses of the relationship between gender identity, sexual orientation and eating-related pathology.

The results were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in April.

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