The concept refers to stressors, such as discrimination, that minorities, including but not limited to lesbian and bisexual women, are exposed to that are “above and beyond general everyday stressors,” Corliss explains.
Diabetes has been long known to disproportionately affect minority groups, such as Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Research published in November 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health shows groups are believed to have an elevated risk for a number of reasons, including poverty and a lack of access to healthcare. And if an individual does have access to care, the disease prevention and management approaches available to them may not be culturally appropriate, say the authors of an article published in an April 2017 article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
But further research is needed to better understand how minority stress factors may contribute to lesbian and bisexual women’s higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the current study, the authors specifically found that body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body weight used to define obesity, plays a role in the sexual orientation and disease relationship.
How Researchers Drew a Link Between Sexuality and Diabetes Risk
Corliss and her colleagues analyzed health data from more than 94,000 women. The participants, all of whom were registered nurses and enrolled in the Nurses Health Study II, were ages 24 to 44 at the start of the study in 1989. Every other year until 2013, the women self-reported whether their doctor had or hadn’t diagnosed them with type 2 diabetes. There were 1,267 women who self-identified as lesbian or bisexual and 92,983 who identified as heterosexual.
Their results revealed that lesbian and bisexual women had a 27 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than heterosexual women over the course of the study follow-up. This difference was greatest when lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women were younger. Researchers noted BMI as the primary contributor to the disparity.