142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Sexual orientation, relationship status, and mental health/substance use morbidity: Results from the California Quality of Life Surveys

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014

Susan D. Cochran, Ph.D., M.S. , Department of Epidemiology/Department of Statistics, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., M.S.P.H. , Department of Psychology and Fielding School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background:  Close relationships are protective for mental health reflecting both selective and structural factors (Hughes & Waite, 2009).  Population-based studies of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals commonly find reports of both same-sex (SS) and different-sex (DS) married/cohabiting relationships.  Are DS relationships protective for LGB-identified persons? 

Objectives:  We investigate whether sexual orientation-match is associated with the beneficial effects of married/cohabiting relationships. 

Methods:  Between 2004-2012, the population-based Cal-QOLs drew 3 samples of Californians (N=7536), age 18 to 72 years (5324 exclusively heterosexual; 2014 LGB identified).  Repondents were administered a structured interview assessing sexual orientation, 6 mental health/substance abuse (MHSA) disorders, relationship status, and partner gender.  We used regression methods to investigate associations between relationship status, sexual orientation and MHSA morbidity while adjusting for demographic confounding.  

Results:  Approximately 39% of LGB individuals were married/cohabiting (25% SS relationships; 15% DS relationships). Among heterosexuals, 63% were DS partnered (none SS partnered).  Overall, 21% of respondents met criteria for at least 1 MHSA disorder.  This varied by sexual orientation (AOR=1.91, 95% CI: 1.55-2.36).  Being in a DS (AOR=0.60, CI: 0.51-0.70) or SS (AOR=0.70, CI: 0.50-0.98) relationship was associated with lower MHSA risk when compared to single persons suggesting that both types of relationships have protective properties. Among LGB persons, only those in SS (AOR=0.71, CI: 0.50-1.00), but not DS (AOR=1.15, CI: 0.71-1.88), relationships evidenced lower MHSA risk. 

Conclusions:  MHSA protective properties of close relationships are present in both heterosexual and SS relationships, but heterosexual relationships appear to provide little mental health benefit for sexual minorities.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify sexual orientation-related differences in close relationship status. Describe the effects of partner gender on risk for mental health and substance abuse morbidity among sexual orientation minorities.

Keyword(s): Mental Health, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI of the CalQOL surveys.
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.