Study finds link between eating disorders, gender and sex disorders among college students

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University of Minnesota research looked into disparities between heterosexual, cisgender and LGBTQ college students

A research study by the University of Minnesota found that eating disorders are more prevalent among LGBTQ college students than among their heterosexual and non-gender-confused peers, reports Minnesota Daily.

The study also sought to measure the disorders’ effects on academic achievement.

Eating disorders cause more deaths than any psychiatric illness, said Emily Pisetsky, the lead researcher and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. This makes eating disorders an important topic, especially as they relate to minority groups, she said.

“We know that early intervention is associated with better outcomes,” Pisetsky said. “Being able to identify folks who are high risk will allow us to have more targeted intervention and prevention efforts.”

According to the study, normal women, transgender and gender-nonconforming students reported higher rates of eating disorder diagnoses than normal men. 

In comparison to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual students also had a higher likelihood of having these disorders. Within these identities, bisexual students and students who were “unsure” of their sexual identity had the highest rates.

“[Bisexuality] is not a group that you hear as much about, and we think that may be part of the stigma,” Pisetsky said. “It’s something that can often be sort of minimized and not feel … quite like they fit in with the queer community or quite like they fit in with the straight community.” 

In addition, bisexual students were more at risk of having eating disorders impact their academic performance and achievement.

The fact that confused sexual identity can mean a higher risk of eating disorders and can affect academic success is something that needs to be looked into further, said Autumn Askew, who works at the Minnesota Center for Eating Disorder Research and contributed to the study.

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