Factors affecting LGBTI people

The majority of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI)1 people lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives. However, studies have found that non-heterosexual people face up to twice as much abuse or violence (including physical, mental, sexual or emotional) than their heterosexual counterparts. This prejudice and discrimination adds an additional layer of risk on top of biological, social, environmental and psychological factors which can lead to depressionanxiety and suicide.

Research and real life experiences have found that LGBTI people have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, self-harming and suicidal thoughts.

When compared with heterosexual people, same-sex attracted and transgender people have higher psychological distress and significant levels of anxiety.2 

Queer young people

Around 10 per cent of young Australians experience same-sex attraction, most realising this around puberty.3 They may be more likely to experience bullying at school and/or greater difficulty connecting with others. In an Australian study, 61 per cent of young non-heterosexual people reported experiencing verbal abuse and 18 per cent reported physical abuse.4

Young LGBTI people with a history of verbal, sexual and/or physical victimisation and abuse have higher levels of social and mental health problems than heterosexual young people – including sexual risk-taking, dangerous use of alcohol and drugs, dropping out of school, homelessness, self-harm and attempted suicide.

Lesbians and other women attracted to women

The Rainbow Women and Help Seeking Research Report identified that lesbian and bisexual women and women who identify with other sexual orientations such as a sexual and pansexual have high rates of stress, distress, depression and anxiety.

Other research shows that bisexual and lesbian women experience higher levels of diagnosis or treatment for a mental health condition compared to same-sex attracted women.

Gay men and other men attracted to men

Compared to heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men are more likely to experience depression and anxiety conditions, and younger men seem to be at a higher risk of depression than older gay men.

Many gay men living with HIV have lost relationships, social support networks, careers, earning capacity and a sense of future. These multiple losses make them more likely to develop depression and may also compound symptoms. Almost 50 per cent of gay men living with HIV in Australia report feeling depressed.5

Bisexual people and Transgender communities

Studies of bisexual people consistently show that they have even higher rates of depression or depressive symptoms than same-sex attracted people.6

The prevalence of depression and anxiety among transgender communities is higher than for other lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

In an Australian survey of LGBTI people, around 60 per cent of transgender males and 50 per cent of transgender females reported having depression. A 2007 survey of Australian and New Zealand transgender people found that almost 90 per cent had experienced at least one form of stigma or discrimination, including verbal abuse, social exclusion, receiving lesser treatment due to their name or sex on documents, physical threats and violence.7 Almost two thirds of participants reported modifying their activities due to fear of stigma or discrimination.8 People experiencing a greater number of different types of discrimination were more likely to report being currently depressed.9

beyondblue funded Australia’s first Trans Mental Health Study, which found that trans people experience very high levels of depression and anxiety.

Intersex people

There are few studies of mental health in intersex people7. One Australian survey of people with intersex variations shows that while most respondents rated their mental health as good or better, almost two thirds of people had thought about suicide and one in five had attempted suicide.

Sources of psychological stress can include confusion about sexual identity and gender roles, and treatment issues such as surgery at a young age, surgery without informed consent, and lack of disclosure from parents and health carers. Research has shown that two thirds of people who are intersex had experienced discrimination due to the intersex status.

 

1. Throughout this website lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and bodily, gender, and sexuality diverse people and communities are referred to with the acronym LGBTI. We recognise that there are distinct differences across the individual identities and bodily states in these communities and a wide range of diversity.

For a full list of references for the statistics on this page, and any others across the website, please visit the references page and search through the relevant category.