Differences in Mental Health Symptoms Across Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Youth in Primary Care Settings



      Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning (LGBQ) youth exhibit significantly higher rates of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and nonsuicidal self-injury than their heterosexual peers. Past studies tend to group LGBQ youth together; however, more recent studies suggest subtle differences in risk between sexual minority groups. This study examined differences in mental health symptoms across male and female youth who are attracted to the same sex (gay and lesbian), opposite sex (heterosexual), both sexes (bisexual), or are unsure of whom they were attracted to (questioning) in a sample of 2,513 youth (ages 14–24 years).


      Data were collected using the Behavioral Health Screen—a Web-based screening tool that assesses psychiatric symptoms and risk behaviors—during routine well visits.


      Bisexual and questioning females endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual females. Lesbians, bisexual females, and questioning females all exhibited significantly higher lifetime suicide scores than heterosexual females. Interestingly, bisexual females exhibited the highest current suicide scores. Gay and bisexual males endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual males. Gay males also exhibited higher scores on the anxiety subscale than heterosexual males, with bisexual males exhibiting a nonsignificant trend toward higher scores as well.


      Findings highlight varying level of risk across subgroups of LGBQ youth and suggest the importance of considering LGBQ groups separately in the context of a behavioral health assessment, especially for females.


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      Linked Article

      • Attracting Attention to Sexual Minority Youth
        Journal of Adolescent HealthVol. 59Issue 1
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          Although some emphasize that “most LGBQ youth lead happy, healthy lives,” [1] it is during adolescence that health disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth arise [2]. In this issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, Shearer et al. [1] examined mental health symptoms among youth with different sexual orientations in primary care settings. The authors divided their sample into four groups based on subjects' attraction to males, females, both males and females, or whether they were “unsure” of their attraction.
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