NORFOLK — Faculty from the psychology department at Old Dominion University received a four-year grant to study binge eating, a type of disordered behavior, in a racially diverse group of lesbian and heterosexual women.
The study is being funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The mission of NIMHD is to lead scientific research to improve the health of minorities and to reduce health disparities.
One such disparity that has been identified is in obesity rates. Research shows that young, adult lesbian women are twice as likely to be overweight and obese as heterosexual women, and black women are similarly more likely to be obese than white women.
“Identifying what factors in women’s daily lives are associated with binge eating, particularly for minority women, may help us to better understand binge eating and how it is related to obesity,” said Kristin Heron, assistant professor of clinical psychology at ODU and the principal investigator on this study.
The team also includes two other psychology department faculty: Robin Lewis, professor of clinical psychology and an expert in sexual minority health, and Abby Braitman, assistant professor of health psychology with expertise in health behavior interventions and statistics.
“Minority health is an area that is under-researched, sexual and racial minorities’ health in particular,” Heron said. “In this study we will look at a range of different daily experiences young, racially diverse lesbian and heterosexual women have, including their mood, stress and social interactions, and how these are related to binge eating.”
For the study, 300 women, ages 18 to 30, will track their daily experiences and eating behavior for two weeks using a smartphone app.
“We are especially interested in understanding the ways in which the daily experiences of minority women are similar to, or different from, non-minority women,” Heron said. “The goal of this study is not to change people’s behavior, but instead to better understand what factors contribute to binge eating in daily life.”
The researchers hope the results of this study can be used to create better treatments for binge eating and obesity, especially for minority women, and to reduce health disparities between minority and non-minority women.