Adolescent Research Review

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 187–208 | Cite as

A Systematic Review of Sexual Orientation Disparities in Disordered Eating and Weight-Related Behaviors Among Adolescents and Young Adults: Toward a Developmental Model

  • Jacob M. MillerEmail author
  • Jeremy W. Luk
Systematic Review


Adolescence is a sensitive period for the development of disordered eating and weight-related behaviors, and sexual minorities may be particularly at risk due to heightened minority stress and challenges related to sexual identity development. This review synthesized findings from 32 articles that examined sexual orientation disparities (each with a heterosexual referent group) in four disordered eating behaviors (binging, purging, restrictive dieting, diet pill use) and four weight-related behaviors [eating behaviors, physical activity, body image, and body mass index (BMI)]. Potential variations by outcome, sex, race/ethnicity, and developmental stage were systematically reviewed. Evidence supporting sexual orientation disparities in disordered eating and weight-related behaviors was more consistent among males than females. Among females, sexual orientation disparities in disordered eating behaviors appeared to be more pronounced during adolescence than in young adulthood. Sexual minority females generally reported more positive body image than heterosexual females but experienced disparities in BMI. Sexual orientation differences in eating behaviors and physical activity were especially understudied. Incorporating objectification and minority stress theory, a developmental model was devised where body image was conceptualized as a key mechanism leading to disordered eating behaviors. To advance understanding of sexual orientation disparities and tailor intervention efforts, research in this field should utilize longitudinal study designs to examine developmental variations and incorporate multi-dimensional measurements of sexual orientation and body image.


LGBTQ Health disparities Obesity Body satisfaction Adolescence 


Author Contributions

JM and JL jointly conceived the study and devised the developmental model. JM conducted the literature review, produced the tables, and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. JL provided conceptual guidance, contributed to data interpretation, and critically revised the manuscript. Both authors read and approved of the final manuscript.


This project was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Amgen Scholar Program at the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Behavior Branch, Division of Intramural Population Health ResearchEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics and BusinessColorado CollegeColorado SpringsUSA

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