Black gay men, lesbians, have fewer mental disorders than whites

Oct 02, 2007

According to a study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health among lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations, blacks and Latinos do not have more mental disorders than whites.

Based on the theory that stress related to prejudice would increase risk for mental disorders, researchers typically expect that black lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals face prejudice related to both racism and homophobia and therefore would have more disorders than their white counterparts. Contrary to this expectation, however, the Mailman School study found that black lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals had significantly fewer disorders than white individuals. Latinos had a prevalence of disorders similar to whites. The findings will be reported in the November 2007 American Journal of Public Health.

“These findings suggest that black lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals have effective ways to cope with prejudice related to racism and homophobia” noted Ilan H. Meyer, PhD, associate professor of clinical Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

The study of 388 white, black and Latino New York City residents aged 18 – 59 who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is the first population-based study of its kind to examine the prevalence of mental disorders among black and Latino, versus white, lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals.

By contrast to the findings about mental disorders, more black and Latino gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals than whites reported a history of serious suicide attempts. “Because these suicide attempts occurred at an early age, typically during the teenage, we can speculate that they coincided with a coming-out period and were related to the social disapprobation afforded to lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities,” Dr. Meyer said. The findings were consistent with the notion that these problems may be more potent among lesbians, gay men, and bisexual youth in Latino and other communities of color. “In the absence of higher prevalence of mood disorders in this population, these findings pose challenge to mental health professionals” said Dr. Meyer. “If this is indeed the case, public health professionals should address what prevention efforts are required to reduce suicide risk among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in these communities” Dr. Meyer said.

The study also found that, across all race/ethnic groups, younger cohorts of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (those in age groups 18 – 29 and 30 – 44 as compared with 45 – 59 years old) had lower prevalence of almost all mental disorders categories, and the difference was statistically significant for mood disorders. Younger cohorts also had fewer serious suicide attempts than did older cohorts (but this was statistically significant only for the middle cohort).

“The finding regarding younger cohorts of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals is consistent with social stress theories that predicted that the liberalization of social attitudes toward homosexuality over the past few decades can lead to a decline in stress and related mental disorders and suicide among lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals” said Dr. Meyer.

Source: Columbia University

Explore further: Egg freezing: controversial new benefit in the US workplace

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US company sells out of Ebola toys

7 hours ago

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

UN biodiversity meet commits to double funding

8 hours ago

A UN conference on preserving the earth's dwindling resources wrapped up Friday with governments making a firm commitment to double biodiversity aid to developing countries by 2015.

Facebook unfriends federal drug agency

8 hours ago

(AP)—Facebook wants assurances from the Drug Enforcement Administration that it's not operating any more fake profile pages as part of ongoing investigations.

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

8 hours ago

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

Recommended for you

Birth season affects your mood in later life

Oct 19, 2014

New research shows that the season you are born has a significant impact on your risk of developing mood disorders. People born at certain times of year may have a greater chance of developing certain types of affective temperaments, ...

CMS announces two new initiatives to improve care

Oct 17, 2014

(HealthDay)—Two initiatives have been announced to help improve the quality of post-acute care in nursing homes and ensure safe delivery of quality care to home health patients, according to a report published ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BigTone
5 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2007
There is not a reliable "finding" of any sort as there are simply too many variables i.e.

1. What percentage of what population actually seek treatment? (income, age, insurance, culture, availability, etc)

2. What reliability is there in diagnosis? (In extreme cases you could have 10 shrinks = 10 differing opinions)

3. Do we have good data about stress related disorders? (Anxiety may not be recognized by untrained individuals and may have genetic predispositions)

The authors of the study are making whatever they want out of the results i.e. %u201CBecause these suicide attempts occurred at an early age, typically during the teenage, we can speculate that they coincided with a coming-out period and were related to the social disapprobation afforded to lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities,%u201D Dr. Meyer

This study gets one big WTF...
jlaroche
4 / 5 (1) Jun 30, 2008
Big Tone,

Thanks for your wonderful comment! I see so many studies that either confuse cause and affect or simply discount a multitude of complex variables. Sometimes I wonder if people blindly believe the 'findings' of studies like this solely on the basis of the perceived authority of the deliverers, but your comment pushes those fears aside.