Date of Conferral







Silvia Bigatti


Adult obesity rates have continued to rise with 40% of the adult population in the United States currently being categorized as obese. Sexual minority women are more prone to obesity than heterosexual women. Obesity has been linked to several causes of premature and preventable death and has often been attributed to changeable health behaviors such as physical activity, diet, and sleep. Additionally, stress has been shown to impact health behaviors as well as rates of obesity. Sexual minority women are known to experience more stress due to their minority status, a concept described in minority stress theory which states that sexual minorities experience higher stress levels due to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. The increased stress levels then lead to poorer health outcomes. Thus, in this quantitative study I examined differences in obesity-related health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, diet, and sleep) between heterosexual women, lesbian women, and bisexual women by analyzing data collected in the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Results from this analysis showed statistically significant differences in several but not all behaviors. Among sexual minority women, I also examined the relationships among stress, obesity, and health behaviors. Stress was correlated with several health behaviors for lesbian and bisexual women. Understanding the differences in health behaviors and how stress plays a role in these behaviors may promote positive social change by helping to decrease the rates of obesity in sexual minority women and by helping health practitioners to develop appropriate interventions based on the variables significant to this population.

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