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Gays twice as likely to seek mental health treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mental health in gays

According to the results of a new study, gays are twice as likely to seek mental health treatment, mostly from discrimination, violence, and stressful life events.

Susan Cochran, in conjunction with a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, examined data collected from 2074 people interviewed in the California Health Interview Survey to find that 48.5% of sexual minorities reported receiving treatment in the past year. Only 22.5% of heterosexuals were found to have engaged in mental health treatment.

Additional findings showed that gay and bisexual women sought care for mental health related issues more frequently, and that heterosexual men were least likely to engage in mental health treatment.

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According to Cochran, “It is well known that health services utilization is greater among women generally. Here we have shown that minority sexual orientation is also an important consideration. Lesbians and bisexual women appear to be approximately twice as likely as heterosexual women to report having received recent treatment for mental health or substance use disorders."

Increased exposure to discrimination, increased stress, and violence are thought to be the driving forces behind increased mental health needs found among gays and sexual minorities. Susan Cochran says, “The pervasive and historically rooted societal pathologizing of homosexuality may contribute to this propensity for treatment by construing homosexuality and issues associated with it as mental health problems".

The study highlights the need for more studies. Understanding how to meet specific mental health needs of gays and sexual minorities will reduce the chances of further distress. Comparing gays and sexual minorities to heterosexuals, gays were found to be twice as likely to seek mental health treatment.

BMC Psychiatry