Is “Coming Out” Good for LGBT Mental Health?

Most gay and lesbian people are not completely transparent about their sexuality in every setting in their lives. New research reveals that admitting sexual orientation may increase mental well-being if met with support. Because coming out can decrease a person’s chance of becoming angry, depressed and isolated, the findings emphasize the importance of tolerance in work and social settings. Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the study, said, “In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing. Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity.” Ryan adds that previous research has shown that those who remain closeted are more likely to experience romantic conflicts, stress and suicidal ideation.

The study involved 161 non-heterosexual participants and their responses to various questions regarding interactions with different groups of people, including family members, colleagues and religious communities. The study showed that “environment plays a huge role in determining when coming out actually makes you happier,” says doctoral student Nicole Legate, who led the study with Ryan and Netta Weinstein from the University of Essex in England. The researchers found that when someone comes out to their accepting peers, they experience the highest level of psychological benefits. But Legate adds, if someone reveals their sexual orientation in a critical environment, “those who come out may actually feel no better than those who conceal.”

The researchers also noticed that age was not a factor in happiness when someone comes out of the closet, and the responses were similar between all respondents aged 18 to 65. The most significant factor that determined the relative happiness of someone choosing to reveal their orientation was decidedly the supportiveness and acceptance of the environment. “The vast majority of gay people are not out in every setting,” adds Ryan. “People are reading their environment and determining whether it is safe or not.”


© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • ronnie


    June 21st, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    How could coming out not be a good thing unless in every single walk of your life you are surrounded by narrow minded idiots. And I do not think that this is the case anymore, there are millions of open minded people in this world ready to accept you and embrace you for who and what you are. The only thing that is not good is suppressing your true feelings and emotions.

  • Andy.K


    June 21st, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    This is spot on.If I’m hiding something from people around me,I feel guilt and shame inside.But if others are aware of the same thing,whether they like it or not(I’m speakingfor myself in this phrase),I’ll be at peace.That’s how most of us are and gay people are no different.

  • ELLIS Mc

    ELLIS Mc

    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:29 AM

    When you let your sexual orientation overrule anything else about you then yes you have to come out to be true to you. But for many this is not what they are all about, they are more than just who they want to have a relationship with. Maybe some should focus more on who they wish to become instead of thinking of new ways to break down barriers that maybe some people are not ready to face head on quite yet. I am not saying that they should hide who they are, but maybe to safeguard themselves a bit they do not always have to throw it in everyone’s face.

  • Mallorie


    June 22nd, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    While coming out with the fact is always a good thing,the more important thing to know is WHEN! You could do it at the wron time and end up facing resistance and no acceptance from your family. Yes I believe there’s a right time for everything but it is very important for this sort of a thing where people entire idea of who you are could change with your coming out.

  • Zoe G.

    Zoe G.

    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Because of misinformed judgmental people in the boondocks who think that being gay is a bad thing, coming out of the closet’s considered a big deal.

    Nobody has to come out of a closet to say they are a vegetarian or they support the New York Jets for example. Why? Because those are both viewed as acceptable personal lifestyle choices and you making that decision harms nobody.

    It should be the same for sexual preferences, surely.

  • V. C. Grantham

    V. C. Grantham

    June 22nd, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    @Zoe: Good point! Unfortunately homophobia is rife even now, which creates a lot of stress for homosexuals. Why isn’t it the homophobics that are in a closet keeping their negativity in their own homes instead of voicing it and fanning the flames of hate?? Wish it was.

    If they did they wouldn’t be causing half the problems for a minority that they do by spreading their nastiness. Those men and women should be the ones feeling the need to hide because they are different and unsure of acceptance, not members of the gay community.

  • Paige Bayer

    Paige Bayer

    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Some citizens in other countries all over the world have beliefs or lifestyles that are considered extremely taboo, and they too are under the constant stress of being found out. The consequences can range from dirty looks to ostracization, and even the death penalty in some cases.

    These backwards beliefs and dire consequences have no place in any civilized country, particularly not first world countries.

    You are born gay. You cannot be something you are not. And no-one deserves to die simply for being who they are at their core.

  • Jane Lark

    Jane Lark

    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    I think it is good for your mental health not to have to wear a mask every day. I know I wouldn’t have a problem with my daughter being gay. If any of you ever plan to be a parent, you need to ask yourself, “What would I do if my daughter told me she was gay?”

    Is your answer anything less than accept it and support her, no matter what? If so, you are not ready to be a parent and need to reflect deeply on why you couldn’t love your own child unconditionally.

    I want mine to be loved, fulfilled and happy with whomever she chooses to spend her life with. Why wouldn’t you want the same for yours?

  • Tempest


    June 24th, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    @Jane–Hear, hear! Unfortunately too many parents don’t understand that kids, like all people, come “as is”. You can’t change the fact that a man or woman is gay. You can’t beat it out of them, retrain their brain or pray it out of them. That’s all nonsense. It’s just how they are born.

    And for those that can’t grasp that, even if it’s at odds with your upbringing, your ideals are 20-30 years behind modern times. Time to catch up and acknowledge that equal rights should be for all, not only the select few.

  • H.A.


    June 25th, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    My grandpa can be a bit of a bigot, but he’s always made it clear that if we repeat anything he says about any minority within earshot of him, he will tan our hides. I don’t know if it’s because he thinks prejudice should die with his generation or if he
    doesn’t want the neighbors knowing his views.

    I like to think he’s genuinely trying to break that habit and change his thinking while discouraging us from regurgitating such unpleasant rhetoric.

  • Heath X

    Heath X

    June 25th, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    The fact that gays are afraid to come out of the closet, even to their parents, is another one of the thousand reasons why couples should need a license to have children that deems them capable of raising them well.

    Sure that’ll never happen and I know it. However we all have the RIGHT to live free from discrimination and upset, both from within and outwith our immediate family circle.

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