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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Psychiatry / Psychology -

Sexual orientation seen linked to bulimia risk

Psychiatry / PsychologyAug 30, 06

Sexual orientation may predict future bulimic symptoms, according to new research that hints that non-heterosexual adolescents are at increased risk of bulimia.

The findings also imply that “although popular explanations, such as thin ideal, body dissatisfaction, and poor self-concept, are associated with both sexual orientation and bulimic symptoms, they do not act as mediators,” the author of the study writes in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Several studies have found people with gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation to be at heightened risk of numerous psychiatric disorders and symptoms, including suicide attempts, drug use, anxiety, and depression,

Reports have also suggested that eating disorders and weight concerns are more frequent among men with non-heterosexual orientation than those with heterosexual orientation.

To further investigate, Dr. Lars Wichstrom, from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, examined whether sexual orientation predicts bulimic symptoms and whether risk factors, such as thin ideal and poor self-concept, that have been associated with non-heterosexual sexual orientation explain the increased risk.

In the study, a total of 2924 Norwegian high school students completed self-reports about bulimic symptoms, same-sex sexual experience, degree of sexual attraction to the same sex, and previously suggested risk factors. The subjects completed mailed questionnaires 5 years later. All of the participants were at least 15-years old and parental permission was obtained.

Two hundred ten subjects (7.3 percent) had bulimic symptoms at baseline and 157 subjects (5.4 percent) had symptoms at 5-year follow-up.

The prevalence of bulimic symptoms was higher in girls than in boys at both time periods (8.8 percent versus 1.2 percent), respectively. Overall, 32.1 percent of participants with bulimic symptoms at baseline still had symptoms at follow-up.

Eight-five subjects (2.9 percent) reported same-sex sexual experiences before the first data were collected,” Wichstrom explains. Incidental sexual attraction to the opposite sex was reported by 9.0 percent of the subjects, whereas 3.2 percent reported sexual that they were gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Same-sex sexual experience before the first report predicted bulimic symptoms after 5 years for both sexes. Men who were attracted to the same sex at the time of the first report were also more likely than heterosexual men to have bulimic symptoms. These associations remained significant after controlling for initial bulimic symptoms and other potential risk factors.

SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders, September 2006.

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