LGB people more likely to experience mental health or substance abuse issues, report finds

mental health

LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) adults are more likely than straight adults to suffer from mental health conditions or substance abuse issues, a study has found.

A report published on Tuesday (13 June) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has found that between 2021 and 2022, LGB people in the US were more likely than straight people to face suicidal thoughts, mental health conditions including depression, and substance abuse issues including binge drinking.

The report found that in the year they took the survey, more than one in four bisexual women and more than one in seven lesbian women experienced a major depressive episode.

Queer women were roughly twice as likely to have smoked tobacco in the month they took the survey compared to straight women, and more likely to report that they had been binge-drinking.

The report found that LGB adults were more likely to have had a substance abuse disorder (SUD) in the past year, with about one third of bisexual men, bisexual women and gay men reporting having experienced a SUD in the past year.

The report added that mental health and substance abuse issues can be particularly difficult for women and people of colour who are part of the LGB community, noting that bisexual people face discrimination due to their queer identity, but also may experience “invisibility and erasure”.

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It explained that bisexual women were six times more likely than straight women to have attempted suicide in the past year, and three times more likely to have an opioid use disorder.

Bisexual men were three times more likely than straight men to have experienced a serious mental illness in the past year.

The report notes that the LGB community may struggle more with mental health conditions, as “sexual minorities experience unique stressors that can contribute to adverse substance use and mental health outcomes.”

A previous study by charity The Trevor Project explained that the huge number of discriminatory bills hitting the US is greatly impacting the mental health of queer young people, with 71 per cent of young LGBTQ+ people reporting that recent debates about restricting laws have had a negative impact on their mental health.

In 2023 alone, the Human Rights Campaign said it was tracking 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in statehouses across the US, with hundreds targeting trans people specifically.

“Right now, we are witnessing the highest number on record of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this early in any legislative session,” said Kasey Suffredini, a vice-president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project.

“We must consider the negative toll of these ugly public debates on youth mental health and well-being.

“LGBTQ+ young people are watching, and internalising the anti-LGBTQ messages they see in the media and from their elected officials.”

Readers affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

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