Compared with heterosexual respondents, “other” (i.e. sexual minority) adults had higher levels of BMI above 24.9, and were less active; SM respondents also had elevated levels of alcohol use, smoking, binge drinking, and psychological distress, and reported worse overall health status.
This is according to a study – “Physical Activity as a Mediator for Health Outcomes Among Sexual Minority Adults” by Jaimi L. Allen, Kristin Wiginton, Janet Nakarmi, Mandy Golman, and Benjamin C. AmickIII – that appeared in LGBT Health.
In this study, the researchers used data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey in the US, exploring the differences in key health outcomes between three groups (heterosexual, SM, and “other”) and the mediating effects of physical activity. Chi-square tests were used to examine group differences. Multinomial logistic regression models were fit to examine associations between PA and health outcomes (body mass index [BMI], psychological distress, health status, and use of alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes).
The study found:
- that while sexual minority adults had higher levels of BMI (above 24.9), and yet were less active, physical activity served as a protective factor for BMI above 30 and health status for all groups
- physical activity was also protective for BMI below or above 18.5–24.9, smoking, psychological distress, and health status for both heterosexual and SM groups
- physical activity behaved as a risk factor for alcohol use and binge drinking for all groups
- adjusted modeling removed physical activity as a risk factor for light alcohol use and binge drinking for sexual minority respondents and added a protective factor for e-cigarette use for heterosexual respondents
According to the researchers, this study “adds to current literature on health disparities affecting sexual minority populations and the health benefits associated with physical activity.”
For the research hers, therefore, “further research is needed to explore tailored physical activity intervention for sexual minority populations and those who mark ‘other’, ‘something else’, ‘don’t know’, or refuse to answer questions on sexual orientation.”