Weight-based bullying is among the most prevalent forms of peer harassment and carries significant health consequences—particularly among adolescents who identify as a sexual and/or gender minority (SGM). We examined how anti-bullying legislation that includes weight as a protected class (enumeration) contributes to the prevalence of weight-based bullying and its adverse health sequelae among SGM adolescents. We collected data on weight-based bullying and health risk (stress, unhealthy eating behaviors, self-rated health) from the LGBTQ National Teen Survey and linked these to state anti-bullying legislation obtained from the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services. Weight-based bullying was less frequent, but associated with greater health risk for SGM adolescents in states with, versus without, weight-enumerated anti-bullying laws. Adding weight as a protected class in anti-bullying legislation may be an effective strategy for reducing weight-based bullying, but additional supports are needed to support adolescents who continue to experience weight-based bullying.
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This research uses data from the LGBTQ National Teen Study, designed by R.J.W. and R.M.P. in collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign, and supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Connecticut (Research Excellence Program). R.J.W. acknowledges support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant No. K01DA047918). Any interpretations and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and may not reflect those of the NIH.
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Lessard, L.M., Watson, R.J., Schacter, H.L. et al. Weight enumeration in United States anti-bullying laws: associations with rates and risks of weight-based bullying among sexual and gender minority adolescents. J Public Health Pol 43, 27–39 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41271-021-00322-w