Eating disorders (EDs) disproportionately affect sexual and gender minorities, with majority of research conducted among samples in the United States. The purpose of this study was to examine ED psychopathology among adolescents and young adults in Canada with diverse gender and sexual identities.
Data were collected from 2,714 Canadians, aged 16–30 years old, via an online survey at the end of 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants responded to sociodemographic questions (including history of EDs) and reported on eating attitudes and behaviors. Descriptive statistics and multiple modified Poisson and linear regressions were conducted.
Over half the sample was heterosexual, 35% were sexual minority cisgender men and women, and 6.5% were transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people. The sample overall reported elevated ED psychopathology based on their eating attitudes and behaviors. TGNC participants reported the most severe ED psychopathology. Generally, sexual minority cisgender women and cisgender men had elevated ED psychopathology compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Regression analyses revealed all gender and sexual minorities reported greater ED psychopathology compared to heterosexual cisgender men.
The Canadian sample reported elevated ED psychopathology compared to previous studies among various populations. Additional investigations are now needed to observe how ED psychopathology continues to change after the onset of the pandemic. Further research is needed among cisgender men, TGNC people, and sexual minorities to understand the unique stressors they face that lead to high ED psychopathology, and develop appropriate prevention and treatment tools.
EDs affect people of all gender and sexual identities. People who identify as a gender and/or sexual minority often experience problematic eating attitudes and behaviors, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming people of all sexual identities. More research attention is needed among these populations, especially due to a paucity of research among Canadians, to develop effective diagnostic tools, prevention efforts, and treatment programs specific to gender and sexual identities.