#Fitspiration and Mental Health for LGBTQ+ College Students

Kristen Welker, Sarah Philpot, Artur Krysiuk, Chris Outzen


Introduction – Fitspiration (fitness inspiration) on social media is associated with increased risk for decreased self-esteem and body satisfaction, along with restricted and disordered eating. Historically, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating also are associated with certain groups in the LGBTQ+ community. This study sought to identify if fitspiration viewing differed between LGBTQ+ college students and their peers, and if prevalence of body satisfaction, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia differed between groups.

Methods – This study used a cross-sectional survey design. Students at a small Midwestern university completed this survey, which was approved by a university IRB. The survey was distributed in person, and included sections on exercise behavior, social media use, body image, and disordered.

Results – A total of 429 students completed this survey, including 54 (13.5%) who identified as LGBTQ+. There were no differences in fitspiration viewing tendencies or self-esteem between LGBTQ+ students and their peers. With regard for body satisfaction, fitspiration viewers responded slightly less favorably, while more LGBTQ+ students reported being “not at all” satisfied with their body. Being LGBTQ+ was demonstrated to be associated with having body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and nearly 30% of LGBTQ+ students had scored indicating BDD. This was unaffected by viewing fitspiration, however. Fitspiration viewers did, however, have significantly higher scores for restrained eating and eating concerns than those students who don’t view fitspiration. LGBTQ+ students who view fitspiration had the highest eating concern scores reported.

Discussion – Overall, there were few statistically significant differences between LGBTQ+ students and non-LGBTQ+ students and fitspiration viewers and non-viewers. Fitspiration played a role in eating concerns, as has been previously demonstrated, but being LGBTQ+ and viewing fitspiration seems to have the greatest concern. Future studies should explore qualitatively the experiences of LGBTQ+ students on social media, and assess if increased visibility online is leading to a decrease in many negative health outcomes experienced by LGBTQ+ people.


LGBTQ; Fitspiration; Body dissatisfaction; Self Esteem; Disordered Eating

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