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Depression problem for sexual minority youth

Wednesday December 12th, 2018

Young people who are not heterosexual show a significantly increased rate of depressive symptoms from the age of ten, researchers warn today.

Information on depression and self-harm in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort (Children of the 90s) was analysed by Dr Gemma Lewis of University College London, UK, and colleagues. This included 4,828 individuals born in 1991 and 1992.

Those who reported a non-heterosexual sexual orientation at 16 years tended to have higher depressive symptoms at age ten, increasing with age. Sexual minority adolescents were also more likely to self-harm at ages 16 years and 21. By age 21, sexual minorities were four and a half times more likely to have self-harmed with suicidal intent than heterosexuals.

Details are published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health today (12 December).

The authors write: “There are few population-based cohort studies of the emergence, development, and persistence of mental health problems in sexual minorities.

”Mental health disparities are present early in adolescence and increase throughout the school years, persisting to young adulthood. Prevention of these mental health problems and early intervention must be a priority."

Dr Lewis comments: “We’ve known for some time that sexual minority youth have worse mental health outcomes, and it’s quite concerning that we’ve found this trend starts as early as ten years old.”

First author, Dr Madeleine Irish, added: “As these differences emerge so early, we suspect that a sense of feeling different might affect mental health before children can even articulate that difference. As they progress through adolescence, a range of stressors could be involved, such as discrimination, stigmatisation, feelings of loneliness, social isolation, shame or fear or rejection, including at home or at school.”

Irish, M. et al. Depression and self-harm from adolescence to young adulthood in sexual minorities compared to heterosexuals: a population-based cohort study. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 11 December 2018; doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30343-2

Tags: Infancy to Adolescence | Mental Health | UK News

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