Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people?

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999 Oct;56(10):876-80. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.56.10.876.


Background: This study examines the extent to which gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people are at increased risk of psychiatric disorder and suicidal behaviors using data gathered on a New Zealand birth cohort studied to age 21 years.

Methods: Data were gathered during the course of the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a 21-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in Christchurch, New Zealand. At 21 years of age, 1007 sample members were questioned about their sexual orientation and relationships with same-sex partners since the age of 16 years. Twenty-eight subjects (2.8%) were classified as being of gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation. Over the period from age 14 to 21 years, data were gathered on a range of psychiatric disorders that included major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, and substance use disorders. Data were also gathered on suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Results: Gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people were at increased risks of major depression (odds ratio [OR], 4.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-9.3), generalized anxiety disorder (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.2-6.5), conduct disorder (OR, 3.8; 95% CI, 1.7-8.7), nicotine dependence (OR, 5.0; 95%, CI, 2.3-10.9), other substance abuse and/or dependence (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 0.9-4.2), multiple disorders (OR, 5.9; 95% CI, 2.4-14.8), suicidal ideation (OR, 5.4; 95% CI, 2.4-12.2), and suicide attempts (OR, 6.2; 95% CI, 2.7-14.3).

Conclusions: Findings support recent evidence suggesting that gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people are at increased risk of mental health problems, with these associations being particularly evident for measures of suicidal behavior and multiple disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / psychology
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data