U.S. National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health
Skip navigation
MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You
Contact Us FAQs Site Map About MedelinePlus

Reuters Health Information Logo

Mental disorder risk higher in gay, bisexual adults

Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version

Reuters Health

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Homosexual and bisexual men and women may face higher risks of depression, substance abuse and suicidal behavior than heterosexuals do, a new study suggests.

In an analysis of 25 past studies on sexual orientation and mental health, UK researchers found that across the studies, gay, lesbian and bisexual adults were at least 50 percent more likely than heterosexuals to have a history of depression or an anxiety disorder.

They also have similarly elevated risk of alcohol problems or other forms of substance abuse, and were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

The findings, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, strengthen evidence from smaller studies that gay, lesbian and bisexual people have a relatively higher rate of mental health problems.

However, none of this means that homosexuality is itself some type of disorder that gives rise to poorer mental health, stressed lead researcher Michael King, of University College London.

This study could not examine the reasons for the higher-than-expected rate of mental disorders and substance abuse. However, King told Reuters Health, it is likely that lifelong stress is involved.

Even in relatively liberal societies, he said, gay, lesbian and bisexual people face both overt and subtle discrimination. They may also have to deal with social exclusion and rejection by their own families.

It's important, King said, for healthcare providers to be aware that homosexual and bisexual patients have a relatively higher risk of mental health disorders. On the other hand, he added, they should not assume that such problems in these patients are necessarily related to their sexuality.

According to King, therapists can have a tendency to automatically see the sexuality as the issue -- rather than, for example, the depression itself.

"This occurs quite frequently," he noted, "much to the irritation of many (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people who seek therapy."

SOURCE: BMC Psychiatry, August 18, 2008.

Reuters Health

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Related News:
More News on this Date

Related MedlinePlus Pages: