LGB people ‘significantly more likely to suffer poorer mental health’

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people are significantly more likely to suffer poorer mental health or report drug and alcohol misuse compared to heterosexual people, research suggests.

Bisexual people reported the highest rates of mental health problems and highest illicit drug use, according to a study from University College London (UCL), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and City, University of London.

The research analysed data from the 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys which had a combined sample of 10,433 people in England aged 16-64.

Participants were asked about their sexual orientation, common mental disorders, hazardous alcohol use, and illicit drug use.

The researchers found there had been no significant change between 2007 and 2014 in the prevalence of common mental health disorders.

Some 40.4% of bisexual people and 23.8% of lesbian and gay respondents were found to be experiencing conditions such as depression or anxiety – compared to 16.3% of straight people.

Illicit drug use was highest among bisexual people, at 37.0%, compared to 25.3% of lesbian and gay respondents and 10.5% of heterosexual people.

And alcohol misuse was highest among lesbian and gay people, at 37.4%, compared to bisexual people (31.0%) and heterosexual people (23.8%).

Discrimination and bullying may have contributed to poorer mental health in lesbian and gay people, the researchers found.

Given the continued disparity, the authors are calling for Government action to ensure equity in health and social care services.

They said schools must have policies creating supportive environments for LGB students and more must be done to implement anti-discrimination strategies across health care settings.

Lead author Dr Alexandra Pitman, from UCL’s Division of Psychiatry, said: “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.

Co-author Dr Joanna Semlyen, from UEA, said: “We know that sexual minorities are at increased risk of poor mental health than the heterosexual population.

“What this paper shows is that those inequalities did not change between the two study collection points of 2007 and 2014.

“This is really important because it shows that, despite some changes in societal attitudes, people who are lesbian, gay and bisexual continue to experience poor mental health.

“What we need to do now is not only continue to monitor health in sexual minority populations as standard but also to design studies to understand what causes these inequalities and develop interventions to reduce them.”

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

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