Minority Stress May Increase Diabetes Risk in Lesbian, Bisexual Women

Two women eat eggs at a kitchen counter while a large dog begs for food.Lesbian and bisexual (LB) women are more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes than heterosexual women, says a study in Diabetes Care. LB women also have higher overall stress due to violence and discrimination. Stress related to one’s marginalized status is called minority stress. The study authors believe minority stress may increase the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in LB women.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women More Vulnerable to Diabetes

The study followed 94,250 women who participated in the 1989 Nurses’ Health Study II. Roughly 1% (1,267) of participants identified as lesbian or bisexual. The rest identified as heterosexual. Participants were between the ages of 24 and 44 when the study began. The study ended in 2013, providing 24 years of data on participants.

By 2013, 6,399 women had type 2 diabetes. Women with type 2 diabetes generally had a higher BMI than those without the disease. Lesbian and bisexual women were 27% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. They were also more likely to have a high body mass index. BMI was the primary factor explaining differences in diabetes rates between heterosexual and LB women.

Bisexual and lesbian women also developed diabetes at younger ages. Developing diabetes at a younger age means more years of life with the disease. Thus, an earlier onset can increase the risk of diabetes-related health issues.

The Role of Minority Stress in Diabetes

The study found higher rates of stress in LB women due to discrimination and violence. The authors believe minority stress is a major contributor to higher BMIs. Therefore, minority stress may lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in LB women.

The study authors urge care providers to look at the whole picture when treating lesbian and bisexual women for diabetes. When care providers focus only on lifestyle factors, they can miss important influences such as minority stress.


  1. Corliss, H. L., VanKim, N. A., Jun, H., Austin, B., Hong, B., Wang, M., & Hu, F. B. (2018). Risk of type 2 diabetes among lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women: Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diabetes Care. Retrieved from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2018/05/01/dc17-2656
  2. Lesbian, bisexual women may be more likely to develop diabetes due to stress. (2018, May 9). EurekAlert. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/sdsu-lbw050918.php

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