Media releases

New analysis of national survey reveals links between poorer mental health and abuse, and drug use in LGBT Australians

02 Apr 2015

A new analysis of a survey funded by beyondblue and The Movember Foundation, and conducted by researchers at La Trobe University, has revealed strong links between psychological distress and drug use among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Australians.

The finding is revealed in a new report, A Closer Look at Private Lives 2, based on a national survey of almost 4000 LGBT Australians.

The research examined initial survey data from 2012 to investigate links between the mental health of LGBT Australians and their experiences of discrimination, drug use, LGBT and mainstream community engagement, and health service use.

Poorer mental health was linked to drug use (excluding heroin), which was considerably higher among LGBT people than the general population and which the report suggests is linked to discrimination. The psychological distress was greater in those who had used drugs in the 12 months prior compared to those who hadn’t.

The analysis shows that trans males and trans females recorded the highest levels of harassment or abuse, with 55 per cent and 49 per cent reporting instances of harassment or abuse based on their gender identity or sexual identity. The report also outlined the link between poorer mental health and socio-economic disadvantage among trans males and females.

Other findings included:

- Participating in mainstream and LGBT community events was associated with increased resilience for trans males and females, lesbian and bi females.
- Mental health appeared to improve with age for most of the gender identity and sexual identity groups.
- Lower socio-economic status was a strong indicator of mental health problems among LGBT respondents.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the findings showed the LGBT community was at higher risk of having poorer mental health than the general population and urged LGBT people to participate in LGBT community events which had proven to help build resilience.

“Rates of psychological distress are higher among LGBT Australians with lower income and education levels, who have been subjected to heterosexist harassment or abuse, or who have consumed one or more illicit drugs,” Ms Harman said.

“While we see a clear link between these factors and poorer mental health, it is encouraging to see that participating in both mainstream and LGBT community events improves resilience and reduces the risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.”

La Trobe University lead researcher William Leonard said the inclusion and visibility of LGBT Australians in work, cultural, educational, social and sporting settings is a whole community and government responsibility.

“Our research shows when involvement and participation in society increases amongst LGBT Australians, their mental health problems decrease. This is the way to tackle discrimination and depression and it needs to be happening now if we are to make progress in reversing the imbalance in their poorer rates of mental health across the board,” he said.

The Movember Foundation Asia Pacific Director Jeremy Macvean said; "These are important research findings that add further impetus to the work The Movember Foundation is doing with LGBT Australians Through participation in Movember we have seen first-hand the positive impact of connecting with friends and the broader community. As such, we will continue to be strong advocates of building social connections as a means to promote mental health.”

The study was managed jointly by La Trobe University Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria. A Closer Look at Private Lives 2 was funded by beyondblue and The Movember Foundation.