Study finds high rates of weight-based bullying among LBGTQ adolescents

Washington: It is no secret that adolescents who identify as LGBTQ often face victimisation and bullying because of their sexual and/or gender identity. A recent study suggests that high percentages of LGBTQ youth are also teased and bullied because of their body weight.

The study, published in Pediatric Obesity has suggested that across sexual identities, 44-70 per cent of LGBTQ teens reported weight-based teasing from family members, 41-57 per cent reported weight-based teasing from peers, and as many as 44 per cent reported weight-based teasing from both family members and peers.

Furthermore, approximately one in four teens reported these experiences at school, and body weight was the third most common reason that these adolescents indicated they were teased or treated badly (behind sexual orientation and gender identity).

“Body weight is often absent in school-based anti-bullying policies, and our findings suggest that heightened awareness of this issue may be warranted in school settings to ensure that weight-based victimisation is adequately addressed and that sexual and gender minority youth are recognized as potentially vulnerable targets of weight-based bullying,” said Rebecca Puhl, lead author of the study.

Adolescent obesity rates currently reach 20 per cent in the United States, and weight-based victimisation has become a widespread form of mistreatment experienced by youth. This victimization has harmful health consequences, including increased risk for depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, poor body image, disordered eating, harmful weight control behaviors, and lower levels of physical activity.

Although there is mounting evidence of weight-based victimisation in youth, there has been little attention to this issue in LGBTQ adolescents, despite their high prevalence of overweight and obesity and increased risk for victimisation.

“These issues warrant attention among healthcare providers, parents, educators, and all others who interact with adolescents. Increased consideration must be given to the intersection of social identities related to body weight, sexual orientation, and gender identity in youth,” said Ryan Watson, co-author of the study.

Another key finding from this new study was that regardless of the source, family or peers, of weight-based victimisation, sexual and gender minority adolescents face these experiences across diverse body weight categories.

The highest rates of weight-based victimisation occurred in LGBTQ adolescents with obesity (as many as 77 per cent reported these experiences), but high percentages of teens at lower body weight categories were also vulnerable–55-64 per cent of those with an underweight BMI reported weight-based victimisation.