Lesbians and Bisexual Women May Have Greater Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

A longitudinal study of straight, bisexual, and lesbian women found that lesbian and bisexual (LB) women have a 27% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care, analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II. Participants filled out initial questionnaires when the study was established in 1989 and biennial mailed questionnaires were used for follow-up. The researchers found that LB women had significantly higher incidence of type 2 diabetes than heterosexual women, even after adjusting for family history of diabetes, race/ethnicity, region of residence, and menopausal status. Moreover, this was most prominent in women under 40 years old and rates were similar to heterosexual women in LB women over 50 years old.

The study also found that BMI completely accounted for the relationship between sexual orientation and type 2 diabetes. However, the researchers note that focusing on behavioral factors like physical activity, sedentary behavior, and diet may not be sufficient to eliminate chronic disease disparities among LB women. Instead, minority stress and social stigma may be influencing health through both physiological and behavioral pathways (e.g. dysregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the presence of maladaptive coping strategies).

It is important that we expand efforts to address the detrimental health impacts of minority stress in addition to improving research on how to specifically target sexual minority women for disease prevention and management. Both of these areas will be crucial in helping to improve the health and wellness of LB women. Health providers can start by recognizing the elevated risk of these patients and addressing behavioral factors, through warning against coping strategies that can lead to obesity, and social factors, through providing a healthcare environment free from identity-based stressors.

You can access the full text in Diabetes Care here: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2018/05/01/dc17-2656

You can read LGBTQ Nation’s report of the study here: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2018/05/lesbians-bisexual-women-elevated-risk-type-2-diabetes/