College Climate and Sexual Orientation Differences in Weight Status

Nicole A. VanKim, Marla E. Eisenberg, Darin J. Erickson, Katherine Lust, Melissa N. Laska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has identified significant sexual orientation disparities in obesity. Contextual factors, like lack of anti-discrimination policies and gay-straight alliances, have been shown to be associated with health outcomes like poor mental health and substance use for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals moreso than their heterosexual counterparts; however, little work to date has explored the role of contextual factors on sexual orientation disparities in obesity. Individual-level, serial cross-sectional data from the 2009–2013 College Student Health Survey, which includes 2- and 4-year college students (n = 29,118) attending 46 Minnesota colleges, were used. College-level data on LGB context were primarily collected through college websites. Multinomial logistic regression models were fit to examine associations between LGB college climate scores (including non-discrimination policies, presence of LGB or diversity-related student groups, LGB courses offered, LGB housing accommodations, and prevalence of LGB students) and students’ weight status (underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese), based on self-reported height and weight. Higher LGB climate scores (i.e., more supportive environments) were associated with lower risk of overweight and obesity among all students. Sexual orientation-stratified findings among female students suggested that the association between LGB climate scores and weight status was similar to the overall female sample. Sexual orientation-stratified findings among male students showed a more complex relationship between LGB climate scores and weight status. More work is needed to disentangle the observed associations, and to investigate other contextual factors, like state- and city-level policies, social networks and norms, and individual resiliency within these contexts to better understand the contextual influences on sexual orientation disparities in obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-433
Number of pages12
JournalPrevention Science
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Keywords

  • College students
  • Context
  • Sexual orientation
  • Weight behaviors

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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