Young LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to have an eating disorder, according to a new independent study from Just Like Us.
The charity for LGBTQ+ youth surveyed 2,934 pupils aged 11-18 (1,140 of whom are LGBTQ+) across 375 schools in the UK.
It will form part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of queer students, which will be published in full next month.
According to the study, one in five young LGBTQ+ people (20%) have experienced or is “currently experiencing” an eating disorder, a major contrast from the 7% of non-LGBTQ+ people.
A quarter of bisexual girls (24%) and young lesbians (23%) said they’ve had an eating disorder, which is – again – a significant increase from the amount of heterosexual girls (9%).
This is closely followed by 22% of transgender young people.
The research also found that 18% of gay boys and 13% of bisexual boys have had eating disorders, compared to 3% of heterosexual boys.
Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, called for schools and parents to send a positive message of acceptance to young LGBTQ+ 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,” he said.
“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.”
Just Like Us runs School Diversity Week from 21-25 June. For more information about the LGBTQ+ charity, visit their website here.
Young LGBTQ+ young people affected by this story can reach out to Beat and Childline for mental health support on the following numbers:
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, said: “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.”
Schools can now sign up to take part in School Diversity week – for free – here. You’ll also receive a toolkit of resources.