Aims and objectives: To (1) explore college students' perceived sexual orientation-related barriers to engaging in physical activity, eating healthfully and maintaining healthy body images and (2) identify types of campus resources on physical activity, healthy eating and body image available to lesbian, gay and bisexual college students. Background: Previous research has highlighted sexual orientation disparities in weight status, physical activity, healthy eating and body image. Despite this, little is known about the context surrounding these disparities. Design: Cross-sectional study using individual interviews. Methods: Thirty (15 males, 15 females) lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and pansexual-identified college students, aged 18–30 years participated in the study. Quasi-inductive coding was used to analyse transcribed interview data and an iterative coding process was used to organise data into themes. Results: Many felt their sexual orientation helped them be physically active, engage in healthful eating habits and have a positive body image. However, sexual orientation was also identified as a stressor that adversely impacted physical activity and eating habits. Conclusions: Lesbian, gay and bisexual students may have to negotiate their sexuality in ways that could adversely influence their physical activity, eating habits and body image. Both clinical and institutional interventions should be inclusive of all people, including lesbian, gay and bisexual, queer, and pansexual students. Further, tailored interventions to meet the specific health needs of sexual minority populations are needed. Relevance to clinical practice: Clinicians need to understand the context in which sexual minority young adults experience health promotion messaging and programming. Clinic-based tailored interventions are critical as part of a multi-faceted approach in promoting physical activity and healthier eating habits for all young people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and pansexual, to more effectively address the prevention of chronic diseases.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was completed while N. VanKim was a Graduate School Trainee with the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. This research was supported by a J. B. Hawley Student Research Award from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) under Award Number R21HD073120 (PI: M. Laska); and by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) under Award Number T32DK083250. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official view of the National Institutes of Health.
- body image
- college students
- physical activity
- qualitative analysis
- sexual orientation