206073 Mental health of same-sex attracted adolescents: Is religion protective?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 1:30 PM

Stacey W. Lloyd, MPH , 3-C Institute for Social Development, Cary, NC
Annie-Laurie McRee, MPH , Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Compared to their heterosexual peers, sexual minority adolescents fare worse on many measures of mental health including depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. Religion has been found to be protective among youth generally, but it is unclear how it operates in sexual minority populations. The purpose of this study is assess how religiosity impacts the mental health of same-sex attracted (SSA) adolescents comparing them to those with only opposite sex attraction (OSA) in a nationally representative sample.


This study utilizes public-use data from 11-21 year olds who participated in Wave I of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=5,237). Univariate and bivariate statistics are used to describe the religiosity and mental health (depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts) of SSA youth (7.2%) comparing them to youth with OSA (92.8%). Logistic regression is used to compare groups in adjusted models controlling for relevant socio-demographic factors.


Adolescents with SSA reported significantly more depression, suicidal ideations and suicide attempts than those with only opposite sex attraction (p<.05). Overall, SSA youth had lower mean levels of religiosity than OSA (t=3.78, p<.001). Though religiosity was protective against all three mental health outcomes examined for OSA females (p<.01), and against depression and suicidal ideation for OSA males (p<.05), no effects were found for SSA youth of either sex.


Results indicate that religiosity has a differential effect on the mental health outcomes of SSA and OSA youth. Further research is needed to understand differing pathways of religious influence on mental health outcomes in adolescent populations.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain why religiosity could differently affect mental health outcomes in SSA youth 2. Compare the effects of religiosity on mental health outcomes in SSA & OSA youth

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I completed a MPH degree in Maternal and Child Health at UNC School of Public Health where my focus was in health disparities of LGBT individuals.
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.