199017 Dimensions of sexual orientation and mental health outcomes: Results from a national study

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 9:15 AM

Wendy Beth Bostwick, PhD , School of Nursing and Health Studies, Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, IL
Carol J. Boyd, PhD , Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Tonda Hughes, PhD , College of Nursing, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, IL
Sean McCabe, PhD , Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Health research about lesbian, gay and bisexual populations has grown tremendously in the past thirty years. One of the many methodological issues the larger field of “LGBT” health continues to grapple with is how key terms are operationalized and measured. Specifically, the larger question of how different dimensions of sexual orientation—identity, behavior and attraction—are measured and ultimately associated with health outcomes remains relatively unexplored.

The current study uses data from the 2004-2005 National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to explore how sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behavior are associated with DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders among women and men. NESARC's purpose is to estimate the prevalence of alcohol, drug and mental health disorders in the United States, among a non-institutionalized general population. Data were collected in face-to-face interviews conducted in respondents' homes. A total of 34,653 interviews were conducted among the eligible respondents.

Nearly 1.5% (n=577) of the sample identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, 3.4% (n=1,266) reported some same-sex sexual behavior in their lifetime and 5.8%(n=2,229) reported non-heterosexual sexual attraction.

Mental health outcomes differed by gender, dimension of sexual orientation, and sexual minority group. Whereas a lesbian, gay or bisexual identity was associated with higher odds of any mood or anxiety disorder among both men and women, women reporting only same-sex sexual partners in their lifetime had the lowest rates of most disorders. Higher odds of any lifetime mood or anxiety disorder were more consistent and pronounced among sexual minority men than women. Finally, bisexual behavior conferred the highest odds of any mood or anxiety disorder for both men and women.

Findings point to mental health disparities among some, but not all, sexual minority groups and emphasize the importance of including multiple measures of sexual orientation in population-based health studies.

Learning Objectives:
Identify the prevalence of DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders based on dimensions of sexual orientation. Describe group differences within each dimension (e.g., sexual identity, sexual behavior, sexual attraction). Compare how results differ among women and men.

Keywords: Mental Health, Bisexual

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been studying issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and health for the past 9 years. I have published in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to books on issues of sexual orientation and health. Both my Masters thesis and dissertation were focused on these issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.