Lifestyle

British LGB people face significantly higher rates of depression than straight people, according to science

Patrick Kelleher February 17, 2021
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LGB people depression anxiety Britain

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely than their straight counterparts to experience mental health issues, according to a new study. (Envato Elements)

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in England are more likely to experience mental heath issues than their straight counterparts, a new study has found.

Researchers from University College London, the University of East Anglia and City, University of London, analysed data from the 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys to determine the level of mental ill-health among lesbian, gay and bisexual people for the study.

For those surveys, people were asked about their sexual orientation, as well as their experience of mental illness, drug use and alcohol use.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found that there was no major changes in the prevalence of mental health conditions between the 2004 and 2014 surveys – however, LGB people experienced high rates of mental ill-health in both.

Mental health issues were found to be highest among bisexual people, with 40.4 per cent saying they were experiencing depression or anxiety.

Some 23.8 per cent of gay and lesbian people who responded to the survey reported experiencing depression or anxiety, compared to just 16.3 per cent of their straight counterparts.

Researchers noted that bullying and discrimination may contribute to higher levels of mental ill-health among LGB people.

The study also examined drug and alcohol use among lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Researchers found that use of illegal drugs is highest among bisexual people, with 37 per cent reporting having used illicit drugs.

By comparison, 25.3 per cent of lesbian and gay people said they had used illicit drugs, compared to just 10.5 per cent of straight people.

However, alcohol misuse was found to be highest among gay and lesbian respondents, with 37.4 per cent reporting that they had abused alcohol. By comparison, 31 per cent of bisexual people and 23.8 per cent of straight people reported having misused alcohol.

Better supports needed to support LGB people with depression.

The 2007 and 2014 surveys only collected data around sexual orientation, meaning researchers were unable to study the rate of mental ill health among trans people in England.

Researchers said gender identity has already been highlighted as an important topic to cover in the next survey, and they hope to analyse both gender and sexual identity in future studies.

Dr Alexandra Pitman, lead author on the study, said the research highlights the disparities in mental health between queer people and their straight counterparts.

“In order to reduce this persistent inequality in society, we must ensure that health and social care professionals are better trained to identify and care for the wellbeing and mental health needs of sexual minority groups, who are often made to feel invisible within national health systems,” Pitman said.

She called on secondary schools to introduce policies that will better support lesbian, gay and bisexual students, and said a staff member should be appointed as a designated contact for minority students to come forward when they are facing discrimination, bullying or mental heath issues.

Michael King, a senior author on the study, said: “Our research shows that stigma and social exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation may be more subtle and enduring than we imagine.

“Despite greater public acceptance and legal changes to ensure equality, the lived experience of a proportion of LGB people remains negative.

“We would emphasise however that these data also show that the majority of LGB people have robust mental health and lead happy lives.”

Related topics: anxiety, depression

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