Sexual orientation, eating disorder classification, and men's psychosocial well-being

Jessica Strübel, University of Rhode Island
Trent A. Petrie, University of North Texas


In a sample of 676 men, we examined (a) the relationship between men's eating disorder (ED) classification (asymptomatic vs. symptomatic/clinical) to theoretically and empirically identified psychosocial correlates (i.e., body image concerns, sociocultural pressures, internalization processes, and depressive symptomatology) and (b) determined the extent to which sexual orientation moderated those relationships. To test our hypotheses, we used the PROCESS v2.16 macro. Consistent with the tenets of objectification theory as well as past research, the men, regardless of sexual orientation, who were classified as symptomatic/clinical reported more sociocultural pressures, greater internalization and appearance comparisons, stronger investment in their appearance, greater body dissatisfaction and shame, and more depressive symptomatology than did those who were asymptomatic. Further, independent of ED classification, the gay men in our sample reported higher levels of distress across all the outcomes than those who were heterosexual. Sexual orientation moderated the ED relationships with pressures to be lean, appearance orientation, and body shame such that the relationships were stronger for gay men who were symptomatic/clinical than the other groups (e.g., asymptomatic gay men, symptomatic/clinical heterosexual men). The current study supports existing literature that indicates a relationship between level of ED classification and various psychosocial outcomes in men, particularly for those who identify as gay.