International Journal of Exercise Science 15(5): 1347-1356, 2022. Non-heterosexual women tend to report lower physical activity and poorer mental health than their heterosexual counterparts. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in mental health (stress and depression) and physical activity among female college students by sexual orientation. Students self-reported socio-demographic characteristics, physical activity, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms via an online survey. Correlations, independent samples t-tests, and multiple regression analyses were used to examine relationships between perceived stress, depressive symptoms, physical activity, and sexual orientation. Most participants (n = 1072, 20.0 ± 1.5 years) identified as heterosexual (90.1%), non-Hispanic White (73%), and in their fourth semester or higher. Perceived stress and depressive symptoms differed significantly between heterosexual and non- heterosexual women, but physical activity participation did not. Higher participation in vigorous physical activity and strength training predicted both lower depressive symptoms and lower perceived stress while controlling for sexual orientation. For both heterosexual and non-heterosexual sexual women, depressive symptoms had a positive relationship with perceived stress, and a negative relationship to strength training. Depressive symptoms also had negative correlations with vigorous physical activity among heterosexual women. Findings indicate non-heterosexual women experience greater perceived stress and depressive symptoms, and these mental health issues can have multi-level implications. Greater vigorous physical activity and strength training were associated with lower perceived stress and depression regardless of sexual orientation. Administrators and health promoters should consider ways to promote these forms of physical activity among non-heterosexual women. Further research is needed on the potential barriers impacting engagement in physical activity.
Brooks, Ellen M.; Wilson, Oliver W.A.; Elliott, Lucas; Duffey, Michele; and Bopp, Melissa
"Physical Activity is Related to Mental Health and Sexual Orientation Among Women in College,"
International Journal of Exercise Science: Vol. 15
5, Pages 1347 - 1356.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol15/iss5/8