Sexual orientation identity change and depressive symptoms: a longitudinal analysis

J Health Soc Behav. 2015 Mar;56(1):37-58. doi: 10.1177/0022146514568349. Epub 2015 Feb 17.


Several new studies have documented high rates of sexual identity mobility among young adults, but little work has investigated the links between identity change and mental health. This study uses the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 11,727) and employs multivariate regression and propensity score matching to investigate the impact of identity change on depressive symptoms. The results reveal that only changes in sexual identity toward more same-sex-oriented identities are associated with increases in depressive symptoms. Moreover, the negative impacts of identity change are concentrated among individuals who at baseline identified as heterosexual or had not reported same-sex romantic attraction or relationships. No differences in depressive symptoms by sexual orientation identity were found among respondents who reported stable identities. Future research should continue to investigate the factors that contribute to the relationship between identity change and depression, such as stigma surrounding sexual fluidity.

Keywords: LGBT; depressive symptoms; identity development; mental health; sexual orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Young Adult