Lifetime Trauma and Cardiometabolic Risk in Sexual Minority Women
Background: Sexual minority women (SMW; such as lesbian, bisexual, and mostly lesbian) exhibit excess cardiometabolic risk, yet factors that contribute to cardiometabolic risk in this population are poorly understood. Trauma exposure has been posited as a contributor to cardiometabolic risk in SMW.
Materials and Methods: An analysis of data from Wave 3 of the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women Study was conducted. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine correlates of trauma. Next, multiple logistic regression was used to examine the associations of different forms of trauma throughout the life course (childhood, adulthood, and lifetime), with psychosocial and behavioral risk factors and self-reported cardiometabolic risk (obesity, hypertension, and diabetes) in SMW adjusted for relevant covariates.
Results: A total of 547 participants were included. Older age was associated with higher rates of childhood and adulthood trauma. SMW of color reported higher rates of childhood trauma than white participants. Higher education was associated with lower rates of adulthood trauma. All forms of trauma were associated with probable diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and lower perceived social support. Adult trauma was associated with anxiety, whereas childhood and lifetime trauma were associated with higher odds of depression. No significant associations between forms of trauma and behavioral risk factors were noted, except that childhood trauma was associated with higher odds of past-3-month overeating. Logistic regression models examining the association of trauma and cardiometabolic risk revealed that childhood trauma was an independent risk factor for diabetes. Adulthood and lifetime trauma were significantly associated with obesity and hypertension.
Conclusions: Trauma emerged as an independent risk factor for cardiometabolic risk in SMW. These findings suggest that clinicians should screen for trauma as a cardiovascular risk factor in SMW, with special attention to SMW most at risk.