Pubertal Stress and Nutrition and their Association with Sexual Orientation and Height in the Add Health Data
A number of studies have indicated that gay men tend to be shorter, on average, than heterosexual men. Less evidence exists that lesbian women are taller, on average, than heterosexual women. The most popular explanation of the association between sexual orientation and height involves prenatal factors, such that, for example, gay men may have been exposed to lower than typical androgens during fetal development, which impacts their height and sexual orientation as adults. An alternative explanation involves stress, given that stress has been associated with sexual minority identification and with lower height. Another alternative explanation involves nutrition, although its relationship is less clear with sexual minority identification. Using the Add Health data, which is a large, nationally representative and longitudinal sample of American adolescents (n = 14,786), we tested a mediation model, such that sexual orientation → pubertal stress/nutrition → height. Within men, we found that gay men (n = 126) were shorter, on average, than heterosexual men (n = 6412). None of the 24 pubertal stress-related and 15 pubertal nutrition-related variables assessed in the Add Health data mediated the relationship between sexual orientation and height in men. Within women, lesbians (n = 75) did not differ significantly in stature compared to heterosexual women (n = 6267). Thus, prenatal mechanisms (e.g., hormones, maternal immune response) are likely better candidates for explaining the height difference between gay men and heterosexual men.