Non-heterosexual people more likely to suffer from mental illness and substance abuse

Among people who identify themselves by a non-biological gender, they may be more likely to suffer from mental illness and drug misuse, according to new research in Psychological Medicine.

A group of researchers from the University College London was keen on studying the mental health effects of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people by combing through data involving more than 10,000 people residing in the nation of England.

The participants were between the ages of 16 and 64.

Face-to-face and online surveys were administered to understand more about each participants’ sexual orientation, history of mental illness, and substance use. Other factors, such as childhood abuse, discriminatory experiences, and bullying, were also taken into account during the assessment of the data.

Based on the journal report, a significant number of people who identified themselves as bisexual had experienced depressive and anxiety disorders. 28 percent with similar problems identified as being lesbian or gay, the report states.

“Similarly, illicit drug use was highest among bisexual people, at 37%, while for lesbian and gay people it was 25% and heterosexuals, at 10.5%. Alcohol misuse was highest in lesbian and gay people, at 37%, compared with bisexual people at 31%, and heterosexuals, at 24%,” the study’s authors mentioned in a news release.

The study also determined that poor mental health among lesbian women and gay men could be explained by discriminatory experiences and bullying. However, the same could not be said about the bisexual participants.

“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,” said Alexandra Pitman, the study’s lead author, in a news release.

“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.”

In the early years of clinical research in psychiatry, homosexuality was classified as a form of paraphilia, characterized by sexual deviation with psychopathic traits; being placed in the same circle of disorders as pedophilia. Due to social and political intervention, medical health professionals began mobilizing to normalize the identification of non-biological sexual orientation, removing its association with pedophilia.

Many studies since then have demonstrated that mental illness and homosexuality are interconnected, with childhood sexual abuse, such as molestation, playing a major role in sexual deviation.