LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) young people are three times more likely to have an eating disorder, according to new independent research by Just Like Us.
One in five LGBT+ young people (20%) has experienced or is currently experiencing an eating disorder, compared to just 7% of non-LGBT+ young people.
A quarter of bisexual girls (24%) and young lesbians (23%) have had eating disorders. This is compared to 9% of heterosexual girls.
This is closely followed by 22% of transgender young people.
The research found that 18% of gay boys and 13% of bisexual boys have had eating disorders. This is compared to 3% of heterosexual boys.
The independent research commissioned by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, surveyed 2,934 secondary school pupils (including 1,140 LGBT+ young people) in Years 7-13 (ages 11 to 18) across 375 UK schools and colleges in December 2020 and January 2021.
The data forms part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of LGBT+ young people that charity Just Like Us is due to publish in June 2021.
Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us (the LGBT+ young people’s charity), has called for parents and schools to send a positive message of acceptance to LGBT+ young people.
“It is devastating to discover that LGBT+ young people are three times more likely to have an eating disorder and this highlights how society’s lack of acceptance can impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
“LGBT+ young people are disproportionately experiencing tension at home, feeling far less safe in school, and struggling with greater mental health challenges – we hope that this Mental Health Awareness Week, schools and parents will send a positive message of acceptance to any young people that being LGBT+ is something to be celebrated and that they can be themselves at home and at school.
“LGBT+ young people who are struggling with mental health will find it far harder to reach out for the support they need if they don’t explicitly know it’s OK to be themselves – we’d really encourage schools to take part in School Diversity Week this June as a first-step in showing that LGBT+ pupils are safe and welcome in their school so that they feel less isolated.”
LGBT+ young people affected by this story can reach out to Beat and Childline for mental health support:
Beat Youthline for under 18s: 0808 801 0711
Beat helpline for adults: 0808 801 0677
Childline for under 19s: 0800 1111
Beat's Director of External Affairs, Tom Quinn, says: “The results of the survey are devastating but sadly not surprising. Past research has shown that there is a higher prevalence of eating disorders in the LGBTQ+ community, and we know those affected often face additional barriers when seeking and getting treatment.
“It is paramount that we understand the experience of eating disorders for the LGBTQ+ community so we are able to ensure services are accessible and providing the right support.”