NIMH/NIH Loan Repayment Grant Supports Study on LGBTQ+ Youth and Eating Disorders

Associate Professor Meg Paceley led a study examining the relationship between the family and community environments of LGBTQ+ youth and disordered eating behaviors. The research was published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services and supported by the National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health (NIMH/NIH) Loan Repayment Program ($58,000).

To explore the relationship between disordered eating and acceptance or rejection of LGBTQ+ youth in both family and community contexts, Paceley and the research team – including Ryan Watson from the UConn Department of Human Development and Family Studies – used data from the National LGBTQ+ Teen Survey, an anonymous online survey of 7,895 LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 to 17 collected in 2017. The survey questions included measures of acceptance or rejection from parents or caregivers; it also explored community factors such as climate, LGBTQ+ involvement, LGBTQ+ support and anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. The researchers assessed disordered eating behaviors related to attempting to control one’s weight (taking diet pills, fasting, purging) and binge eating.

The study found that LGBTQ+ youth who experienced family rejection and LGBTQ+-based bullying were more likely to report disordered eating patterns for weight control and binge eating. However, youth who experienced LGBTQ+ community acceptance and support were less likely to engage in those disordered eating behaviors.

The study results show that both families and communities are important environments that contribute to disordered eating among LGBTQ+ youth. Paceley is currently analyzing data from the 2022 National LGBTQ+ Teen Survey and preparing a submission for federal funding to study transgender youth and disordered eating longitudinally.

Read more about Paceley’s work.