Comparing women with and without disabilities in five-site “Healthy Weight” interventions for lesbian/bisexual women over 40

Michele J. Eliason (Professor), Jane A. McElroy (Associate Professor), Samantha Garbers, PhD, Asa Radix, MD, Linda Toms Barker (Principal Research Associate)

Disability and Health JournalVol. 10Issue 2p271–278




Lesbian/bisexual women with physical disabilities (LBPD) are an under-studied population.


This study compared LBPD to LB women without physical disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act on socio-demographic variables, health characteristics, and quality of life, physical activity, weight, and nutrition outcomes following a health intervention.


Data came from the Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women Study (HWLB) where 376 LB women were 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, single, report poor or fair health status, postmenopausal, 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. In spite of these differences, after the intervention, LBPD had similar outcomes to women without disabilities on most measures, and were more likely to show improvements in physical quality of life and consumption of fruits/vegetables.


Although different from women without disabilities on many socio-demographic and health variables at baseline, the study suggests that LBPD have similar outcomes to women without disabilities, or may even do better, in group health interventions.