High instances of homophobia are causing surprisingly large levels of depression amongst Australia’s gay community, according to a study.

The findings, similar to reports earlier this week in Northern Ireland, discovered that 90 per cent of gays and lesbian in Australia hide feelings they have towards their partners and over half have been victims of verbal abuse.

The research was conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University found. It is the largest survey of its kind in Australia, encompassing 5500 people.

Three-quarters of respondents reported past depression and nearly half reported at least one major depressive episode. Additionally, suicidal tendencies were found to be higher than among heterosexuals, about 16 per cent in gay men compared with 10 per cent of heterosexual men.

One of the authors, Anne Mitchell, said: “All of the smaller studies have indicated high rates of depression.”

“But this was higher than we suspected. We went back to check the data twice to make sure we didn’t make a mistake, it was so striking.”

She added that the problems reduce with age, “There is an enormous amount of anxiety for young people especially, but it was reassuring that older people grow out of these problems by finding safe and stable environments and good supportive groups around them.”

The study indicated a need for better recognition of gay relationships, less discrimination at work and better public education.