"Healthy Weight" Interventions Study for Lesbian/Bisexual Women with and without Disabilities

Comparing Women with and without Disabilities in Five-site "Healthy Weight" Interventions for Lesbian/Bisexual Women over 40
April 2017
Eliason M. J., McElroy J. A., Garbers S., Radix A. & Toms Barker, L.
Disability and Health Journal
Social Programs
IMPAQ Health
Eliason, M. J., McElroy, J. A., Garbers, S., Radix, A. & Toms Barker, L. (2017). Comparing Women With and Without Disabilities in Five-site "Healthy Weight" Interventions for Lesbian/bisexual women over 40. Disability and Health Journal, 10(2), 271-278.

Linda Toms Barker co-authored a study in the Disability and Health Journal that examined lesbian/bisexual women with physical disabilities (LBPD) and lesbian/bisexual women (LB) without physical disabilities. The study compared these two groups on socio-demographic variables, health characteristics, and quality of life, physical activity, weight, and nutrition outcomes following a health intervention.

Data for this study came from the Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women Study (HWLB). This included 376 LB women recruited into five geographically dispersed interventions. Baseline data were examined to compare women with and without physical disabilities as defined by the ADA, and pre/post intervention data were analyzed for differences in treatment outcomes including quality of life, physical activity, nutrition, and body size.

Compared to women without disability, LBPD were more likely to be bisexual or another sexual identity than lesbian. They were also more likely to be single, postmenopausal, report poor or fair health status, and had a higher body mass index and waist circumference to height ratio. LBPD women were less likely to work and to drink heavily and reported reduced physical and mental health quality of life. Despite these differences, after the intervention, LBPD had similar outcomes as women without disabilities on most measures. They were also more likely to show improvements in physical quality of life and consumption of fruits/vegetables.

LBPD have different socio-demographics and health indicators from women without disabilities, but this study suggests that they share some outcomes in group health interventions. In fact, LBPD may even do better in these interventions. Findings that almost half of LBPD experienced a 10% or greater increase in physical quality of life, and that 52% significantly increased their daily physical activity are particularly encouraging. This study offers important insights into an under-studied population and adds to the understanding of different health indicators for lesbian/bisexual women with physical disabilities.