Details of Publication 351 for Project A151:

Polimeni A, Austin S & Kavanagh A. Sexual orientation and weight, body image and weight control practices among young Australian women. Journal of Women's Health, 2009; 18(3): 355-362

Objective: We compare weight, body image and weight control practices of young adult Australian women according to sexual orientation. Methods: Cross-sectional analyses of the second survey of 9,683 young adult women in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH); the weight, weight control practices, and body image of exclusively heterosexual, mainly heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian women were compared. Results: Lesbians were less likely to be dissatisfied with their body shape (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.32-0.92) than exclusively heterosexual women. Compared with exclusively heterosexual women, bisexual women were more likely to weight cycle (OR 2.22 95% CI 1.22-4.03) and mainly heterosexual and bisexual women were more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control practices such as smoking (mainly heterosexuals: OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.38-2.44 and bisexuals: OR 3.80, 95% CI 1.94-7.44), and cutting meals (mainly heterosexuals: OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.23-2.02 and bisexual women: OR 3.45, 95% CI 1.82-6.54); mainly heterosexual women were more likely to vomit (mainly heterosexuals: OR 2.41, 95% CI 1.73-3.36) and use laxatives (mainly heterosexuals: OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.12-2.19). Conclusions: Future research should explore why bisexual and mainly heterosexual women are at higher risk of disordered eating behaviours. Understanding why lesbians have a healthier body image would also provide insights into how to improve the body image of other groups. It is critical that public health policy and practice addresses less healthy weight control practices of sexual minority groups.