Washington: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ) youth are more likely to lead sedentary lives and develop disorders like diabetes and obesity, a study has found.
The study is among the first of its kind to examine how health behaviours linked to minority stress - the day-to-day stress faced by stigmatised and marginalised populations - may contribute to the risk of poor physical health among LGBQ youth.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth may not only be at risk for worse mental health but also worse physical health outcomes compared to heterosexual youth," said Lauren Beach, a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University in the US.
The study, published in the journal Pediatric Diabetes, is the largest to date to report differences in levels of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and obesity by sex and sexual orientation among high-school-aged students.
The researchers used data from 350,673 US high-school students, predominantly ranging between 14 and 18 years old.
On average, sexual minority and questioning students were less likely to engage in physical activity than heterosexual students, the study found.
They reported about one less day per week of physical activity and were 38 to 53 per cent less likely to meet physical activity guidelines than heterosexual students.
The number of hours of sedentary activity among bisexual and questioning students was higher than heterosexual students (an average of 30 minutes more per school day than heterosexual counterparts).
Lesbian, bisexual and queer female students were 1.55 to 2.07 times more likely to be obese than heterosexual female students.
Obesity and sedentary activity may be higher in this population because lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth are subjected to minority stress, Beach said. "Many of these youth might be taking part in sedentary activities - like playing video games - to escape the daily stress tied to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning," Beach said.
"Our findings show that minority stress actually has a very broad-ranging and physical impact," she said. The findings should not be viewed as a 'doomsday' for this population, Beach said. Instead, she believes this is an opportunity to improve the health of sexual minority and questioning youth. PTI