New Study Looks at Risk Factors Common in Depressed LGBT Individuals

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are more likely to experience psychological problems than their heterosexual peers, partly because of the discrimination they face. Many LGBT individuals struggle with anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-esteem issues, and even depression. Previous research has shown that depression is particularly high in the LGBT population. Although there are many factors that contribute to depression, such as family history and childhood maltreatment, little is known about how these factors and others contribute to depression in LGBT people. To address this gap in research, B. P. Zietsch of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia conducted a study on 9,884 identical and fraternal twins that were recruited from the general population.

The twins were interviewed over the phone and asked about their family history of depression, childhood abuse, domestic violence, maltreatment, family of origin design, and sexual preference. The study revealed that depression was more common among the LGBT twins than the heterosexual twins. Family history was directly related to reports of depression and sexual orientation; childhood maltreatment, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, and family violence, strongly predicted both depression and sexual orientation in the twins. Specifically, men who were abused by their parents showed higher levels of depression, but not nonheterosexuality. But the women participants who were abused by their parents were more likely to be LGBT and depressed than their nondepressed heterosexual peers. Also, this same group of women reported having significantly fewer close friends than the healthy, heterosexual women.

Zietsch said, “These results suggest that genetic factors, childhood sexual abuse, and risky family environment are all involved in the elevated rate of depression in nonheterosexuals.” These findings could explain the high rates of depression in LGBT individuals that are not the result of prejudice alone. Zietsch believes that identifying childhood abuse could help clinicians better address and treat issues of depression in LGBT people.

Zietsch, B. P., Verweijh, K. J. H., Heath, A. C., Martin, N. G., Nelson, E. C., Lynskey. M. T. Do Shared Etiological Factors Contribute to the Relationship Between Sexual Orientation and Depression? Psychological Medicine 42.3 (2012): 521-32. Print.

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  • Whitney


    March 9th, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    I try not to be judgemental, I really do. But this is what I do not get. If the LGBT community is really ok with who they are and what they stand for, then why are they experiencing such high rates of depression and suicide? I know that they face a lot of criticism and scorn, but if they feel that the choices that they are making are the right choices, then you would think that it would not bother them quite as much as it seems to. I know that there will be those who read my comment and will think that I am narrow minded- so be it. But I honestly feel that if they are making the right cjoices for themselves, then why care so much about what others have to say?

  • suzette


    March 10th, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    If you have someone in your life who you love and who happens to have a different sexuality than your own, please just stop for a minute and think about how much you love them and how lost you would be without them.
    Don’t go around thinking about how much you may or may not disagree with their lifestyle. That’s just it- it is their life to live and all they want you to do and to be is a loving part of it.
    Are you willing to lose that loved one to suicide or depression because of one small disagreement? Think about it.

  • Gregory


    March 10th, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Well said Suzette! Why let something so small and that is insignificant in your own life affect your relationship with someone you hold dear?

  • PY


    March 11th, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Putting yourself in the shoes of the person in front of you is usually a good measure of how you should treat them.I have followed this for some time now and trust me,it can really change you!

  • Mary


    March 11th, 2012 at 5:25 AM

    If you look back at their lives, think about the length of time that many in the homosexual community have been living with this. For most of the they have probably had this kind of hate language and actions spewed at them their entire lives. That is an awfully long time having to live with thinking that there is something wrong with them just because the person they love may be the same sex.. That’s a long time to let this kind of thing build up and influence how you feel about yourself and your self worth.

  • Jim L

    Jim L

    March 11th, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    At least now such communities are getting attention and concern.Imagine their plight a few decades ago!I feel it is always in the benefit of society to come out and have discussions about difficult topics,about things almost everybody wants to push under the carpet.

    And when that happens only then can we consider ourselves a mature and healthy society.

  • Maisie


    March 12th, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    So important to note that a lot of those probably feel a real disconnect from other members of their families and could you imagine having felt this your whole life? You are connected via blood relation but really nothing else that feels like it binds you together? Totally isolating

  • hoyt


    March 12th, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    and why does lgbt think they are the only ones facing this? don’t other cultural groups face the same sort of prejudices, and i don’t see studies on here focusing on them? do they have such a loud voice now that we are forced to talk only about “gay” issues?

  • Harlowe


    March 14th, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I am continually shocked at the amount of selfishness and prejudice that we still see today. So what if other groups face this kind of discrimination. That does not mean that it is any less real or relevant to the LGBT community. Do you think that it is an easy choice to make to live a lifestyle that is opnely condemened and looked down upon by a majority of society? I happen to think that this is a group of people that needs our support rather than our disdain, because look at the courage that they are showing by constantly trying to remain true to themselves. So how about giving up the blame game and learning to be more accepting of one another no matter what?

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