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A new study suggests eating disorders have risen for lesbians and bisexual youth.

The University of British Columbia conducted the study which involved 26,000 students aged 12 to 18 from 1999 to 2013.

The students, from Massachusetts, were asked to identify their sexual orientation, a question that has rarely been asked in previous studies.

Ryan Watson, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at UBC’s Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre said: “Our study has found that it’s (eating disorders) only getting worse for lesbian and bisexual girls.”

The research found that in 2013 lesbians were twice as likely to report purging and fasting than they were in 1999.

In 1999 bisexual girls who purged was at 33 per cent while for lesbians is was at 22 per cent. While the statistics have remained nearly the same for bisexual girls, the rate of purging for lesbian youth has risen to 36 per cent for lesbian girls.

In heterosexual girls only eight per cent reported purging in 1999, but the rate went down to five per cent in 2013.

The researchers also found that lesbians were twice as likely to report purging and fasting for weight control.

Watson said his research does not provide an answer to why these rates of disordered eating are so different between heterosexual and sexual minority youth.

“The gap is really widening for lesbian and bisexual girls where it’s not for boys who are gay or bisexual, and so really [there are] some differences here within sexual orientation subgroups that are pretty alarming,” Watson added.

Heterosexual boys had the lowest rates of the behaviour.

The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.


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