Background

Sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth may be at increased risk for overweight and obesity compared to non-SGM youth. Despite the fact that many youth identify as gay or gender non-conforming in childhood, the majority of prior studies have assessed older adolescents and rely on self-reported height and weight. Determining whether health disparities emerge prior to adolescence may have important implications for prevention. The current study, therefore, utilized data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study to compare the prevalence of overweight and obesity among SGM and non-SGM youth.

Methods

Children underwent an in-person assessment including measured height and weight and child-report questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Logistic regressions, adjusting for age, race, family income, and sex assigned at birth, were conducted to test for differences in weight status among SGM youth versus non-SGM youth.

Results

The study comprised 4,507 participants (M age: 10.0y; 47.5% female; 58% nonHispanic white), of whom 59 (1.3%) were sexual (n = 43) and/or gender (n = 23) minorities. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among SGM youth was 13.6% and 25.4%, respectively. Among non-SGM youth the prevalence rates were 14.3% and 15.1%, respectively. Adjusting for covariates, SGM youth were significantly more likely to have obesity compared to their non-SGM peers (OR: 2.52, p = .003). More specifically, SGM females were 2.55 times more likely to have obesity compared to non-SGM females and SGM males were 2.89 times more likely to have obesity than non-SGM males (ps < .037).

Conclusions

Results indicated comparable prevalence rates of overweight between SGM and non-SGM youth. However, SGM youth were significantly more likely to have obesity compared to their non-SGM peers. This study indicates that weight disparities in SGM youth may begin in childhood. Research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms that contribute to weight disparities in this population.