People who are gay, lesbian or bisexual have more mental health problems and substance use, survey finds | Cnn



Despite the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, at least in some circles, adults who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are more likely than those who identify as heterosexual to have serious thoughts of suicide and mental health conditions including major depressive episodes , and are more likely to be misused substances such as alcohol or drugs, according to a new US government report.

The report, released Tuesday, comes from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It included a question about how the participant identifies their sexual orientation from 2015.


Data in the report, which focuses on LGB adults, comes from 2021 and 2022. Next year’s survey will also aim to identify transgender or non-binary people.

The report said that of the groups surveyed, people who identify as bisexual face discrimination like other members of the community, but may also experience invisibility and erasure and a general lack of support.

Bisexual females were six times more likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year than their straight peers, for example, and were three times more likely to have opioid use disorder. Bisexual males were three times more likely to have struggled with serious mental illness in the previous year than their straight counterparts. And about a third of all bisexual and gay male people said they had a problem with a substance use disorder in the year before completing the survey, the report found.

Mental health and substance use challenges may be even more difficult for women and people of color who are members of the LGB community, the report said.

For example, more than 1 in 4 bisexual women and more than 1 in 7 lesbian women had a major depressive episode in the year they took the survey. Women who identify as lesbian or bisexual were about twice as likely as heterosexual women to have smoked tobacco in the month they took the survey.

In the month leading up to the survey, lesbian and bisexual women were also more likely than heterosexual women to report binge drinking and about twice as likely to have been heavy drinkers.

The survey identifies binge drinking as having more than four or more drinks in one sitting for women or five or more for men. Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the previous 30 days.


However, gay, bisexual, and straight men appear to have similar substance use patterns: there was no difference in smoking between straight and gay men, for example, and rates of binge eating and drinking in the month prior to ingestion the poll was the same among gay, bisexual, and straight men.

Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug reported, regardless of sexual identity.

Researchers are unable to explain exactly why the LGB community has more mental health and substance use problems than the straight community, but the report finds that sexual minorities experience unique stressors that can contribute to adverse substance use. and mental health outcomes.

This research is important, said Dr. Jeremy Kidd, a psychiatrist who has worked on studies to improve health outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer populations.

That’s really important data, especially from an organization like SAMHSA that has such influence on both national policy and resource allocation in terms of what types of preventive treatment and recovery services are being supported federally, he said. .

For decades, studies have shown that members of the LGBTQ community have a higher prevalence of substance use and mental health problems.

Kidd said models often show that LGBT people experience a kind of stress that members of the heterosexual community don’t, called minority stress. The American Psychological Association defines it as the relationship between minority and dominant values ​​and the resulting conflict with the social environment experienced by members of the minority group.


LGBT people experience additional stress from discrimination and stigma, stigma both socially but also how living in a society that privileges heterosexuality that has homophobic laws and policies comes to teach LGB people to even consider themselves lower, Kidd said.

Bisexuals may face more challenges because they may experience minority stress in a different way than people who identify as gay or lesbian, she said.

For example, can you imagine being in environments that might validate people who have gay and lesbian identities but might not acknowledge bisexual identity, so they’re somehow invisible in that space, or might really invalidate individuals with bisexual identities, even though the environment is supportive or at least a little more neutral towards gay or lesbian people, Kidd said.

Other studies have found that people who identify as bisexual are also more likely to have health problems such as arthritis, obesity and gastrointestinal problems. Bisexual men are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, studies have shown.

Kidd said the differences uncovered by the new survey are a good reminder to mental health professionals and policy makers that planning and treatment affirmation must intentionally support all segments of the community.

What that effective kind of programming or policy looks like is still something researchers are still trying to understand, Kidd said.

But what can make all the difference, especially in preventing substance use problems among LGBT youth, is having at least one supportive adult in their life, such as a parent, grandparent, teacher, counselor, religious leader or healthcare worker.


Having that person in that young person’s life say I see you, and say you can be extremely protective of substance use problems later on, because it kind of challenges that narrative we used to talk about when people experience stigma and discrimination that teaches people they are less than, Kidd said.

Pride months are also important, Kidd said, because they give society an opportunity to send a message to people in the LGBT community that they are supported for who they are and can make a real difference in someone’s health.

There are really important parts of the LGBT community that can be considered resilient, and that aspect of the community can be a really important protective factor for LGBTQ people.

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