A third of LGBT youth suffer mental disorders

December 1, 2010

One-third of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth have attempted suicide in their lifetime -- a prevalence comparable to urban, minority youth -- but a majority do not experience mental illness, according to a report by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study, published online and in the December issue of the , is the first to report the frequency of in LGBT youth using the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Previous studies have relied on questionnaire-type surveys which, the authors suggest, may overestimate mental disorders in certain groups.

The UIC researchers recruited 246 ethnically diverse 16- to 20-year-old LGBT youth in Chicago and conducted structured psychiatric interviews to assess , post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, and conduct disorder.

While a third of participants did meet criteria for at least one of the mental health disorders, about 70 percent of LGBT youth did not meet criteria for any mental disorders.

The video will load shortly

"One of the most important findings from our work is that most of these youth are doing very well and are not experiencing ," said Dr. Brian Mustanski, assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC and lead author of the study.

Nearly 10 percent of study participants met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about 15 percent met criteria for major depression. A third had made a suicide attempt at some point in their life, and about 6 percent had made a suicide attempt in the last year.

"The big question is, are these youth more likely to have mental disorders relative to other kids?," said Mustanski, a clinical psychologist and director of UIC's IMPACT Program. "And the answer to that is that it really depends on who you're comparing them to."

LGBT youths in the study had a higher prevalence of mental disorders than youths in national samples, but were similar to other samples of urban, racial and ethnic minority youths.

The researchers also looked at differences between sub-groups of LGBT youth to determine if bisexual youth tend to have more mental health problems than gay and lesbian youth, or if racial-minority youth experience more mental health problems than white youth.

Contrary to previous research that suggested that bisexual youth are more likely to have mental disorders than other groups, Mustanski found just the opposite. Bisexual youths had a lower prevalence of mental disorders compared with others in the study.

Explore further: Black gay men, lesbians, have fewer mental disorders than whites

Related Stories

Study links bullying to depression, other adult ailments

October 5, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Arizona family studies researchers report in the journal Developmental Psychology that high school students whose sexual orientation is at odds with social gender norms often find themselves ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2010
"transgender youth" ?!

1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
Depression can be wiped off the face of the planet tomorrow. All it takes is to declare that depression is no longer a mental disorder. This is exactly how the psychiatric profession just cured the president of the United States, by declaring that narcissism is no longer be a mental disorder.
not rated yet Dec 01, 2010
Having a title like "A third of LGBT youth suffer mental disorders" might come across a little sensationalist and you might want to rephrase / craft it a little better because it can seriously be taken out of context.
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
A third of LGBT youth? As compared to what number of "ordinary" youth? Context would be helpful here.

Furthermore, it wouldn't be surprising to discover that, at an age of self discovery, those who realize that they are different might be more depressed than those who practically sleepwalk through life. It reminds me of an essay by Woody Allen where a hero is tasked with finding the happiest people on earth and then discovers that they're dumb as sheep.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.