Mental health problems are more common in
England’s gay, lesbian and bisexual population than the
heterosexual population, according to new
The study, published in the February issue of
the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that
discrimination against non-heterosexual people may be contributing
to these higher levels of mental disorder. Lead researcher Dr Apu
Chakraborty described the findings as “very worrying”.
Psychiatrists from UCL (University College
London) and the University of Leicester teamed up to study rates of
mental disorder among 7,403 adults living in the UK. They took the
data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007. This was the
first year in which the survey has included a question on sexual
orientation and same-sex partnerships.
The researchers found that mental disorders
such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobia,
self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and drug dependence, were
significantly more common among people who identified themselves as
For example, 4.1% of non-heterosexual people
reported having had a depressive episode within the last week,
compared to only 2.1% of heterosexual people. 10.4% of
non-heterosexual people reported alcohol dependence compared to
5.4% of heterosexual people, and 8.6% of non-heterosexual people
reported self-harming compared to 4.6% of heterosexual people.
Overall, 40% of heterosexual people described themselves as being
fairly or very happy, compared to just 30% of non-heterosexual
The researchers also found that
non-heterosexual people were significantly more likely to have
experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation. A
total of 4.9% of non-heterosexual people reported experiencing such
discrimination in the last 12 months, compared to 1.6% in the
Dr Chakraborty said: “This study is the first
time the mental health and well-being of LGB people has been
examined in a random sample of the general population.
“Our study confirms earlier work carried out
in the UK, USA and Holland which suggests that non-heterosexual
people are at higher risk of mental disorder, suicidal ideation,
substance misuse and self-harm than heterosexual people.
“Although the absolute level of discrimination
against non-heterosexual people was comparatively low, it was still
significantly higher than against heterosexual people. It lends
support to the idea that people who feel discriminated against
experience social stressors, which in turn increases their risk of
experiencing mental health problems. These higher levels of
psychiatric problems in non-heterosexual people are very worrying.
They call not only for a response by primary care and mental health
services, but greater efforts at preventing these problems
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
Chakraborty A, McManus S, Brugha TS, Bebbington P and King M. Mental health of the non-heterosexual population of England. British Journal of Psychiatry 2011; 198: 143-148