Associations of Timing of Sexual Orientation Developmental Milestones and Other Sexual Minority Stressors With Internalizing Mental Health Symptoms Among Sexual Minority Young Adults

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Jul;46(5):1441-1452. doi: 10.1007/s10508-017-0964-y. Epub 2017 Mar 7.

Abstract

Sexual minorities (mostly heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian/gay) are more likely than heterosexuals to have adverse mental health, which may be related to minority stress. We used longitudinal data from 1461 sexual minority women and men, aged 22-30 years, from Wave 2010 of the Growing Up Today Study, to examine associations between sexual minority stressors and mental health. We hypothesized that sexual minority stressors (earlier timing of sexual orientation developmental milestones categorized into early adolescence, middle adolescence, late adolescence/young adulthood; greater sexual orientation mobility; more bullying victimization) would be positively associated with mental health outcomes (depressive and anxious symptoms). Linear regression models stratified by gender and sexual orientation were fit via generalized estimating equations and controlled for age and race/ethnicity. Models were fit for each stressor predicting each mental health outcome. Reaching sexual minority milestones in early versus middle adolescence was associated with greater depressive and anxious symptoms among lesbians and gay men. Reaching sexual minority milestones in late adolescence/young adulthood versus middle adolescence was associated with greater depressive symptoms among lesbians, but fewer depressive and anxious symptoms among gay men. Greater sexual orientation mobility was associated with greater depressive symptoms among mostly heterosexual women. More bullying victimization was associated with greater depressive symptoms among bisexual women and with greater anxious symptoms among mostly heterosexual women. Sexual minority stressors are associated with adverse mental health among some sexual minority young adults. More research is needed to understand what may be protecting some subgroups from the mental health effects of sexual minority stressors.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Minority stress; Sexual minority; Sexual orientation; Victimization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Crime Victims
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Heterosexuality / psychology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Development*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Young Adult