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Study confirms LGB people more likely to experience poor mental health

Rachel Badham February 17, 2021

A recent study conducted by three UK universities has confirmed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to heterosexual people, as well as being more likely to engage in substance abuse. The research, published in Psychological Medicine, analysed data from the 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity surveys. They had a combined sample of 10,433 people in England aged 16-64 and asked respondents about their sexual orientation, mental wellbeing and use of illicit drugs and alcohol. 

Bisexual people were found to have the highest rates of depression and anxiety, with 40.4% of participants reporting mental health difficulties. 23.8% of lesbian and gay respondents said they struggled with poor mental health, compared to 16.3% of heterosexual people. Illicit drug use was most common among bisexual people (37.0%), whereas alcohol abuse was more common in the gay and lesbian respondents, with 37.4% reporting issues with binge drinking compared to 23.8% of straight people. The study suggests discrimination may have led to poorer mental health in LGB people, which in turn leads to substance abuse. 

Lead author, Dr Alexandra Pitman, called for UK government action to ensure greater equity in health and social care services, and for schools to create more LGB friendly environments: “What this study highlights is the significant and ongoing disparity in mental health between LGB people and heterosexual people, as evidenced by higher levels of mental health problems and alcohol and drug misuse. 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.”

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