Sexual Minorities More Likely to Seek Mental Health Help

Despite barriers to access, more lesbians and gays seek treatment for substance use, mental illness

THURSDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Lesbian and bisexual women and gay men are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to seek treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, according to a study published Aug. 14 in BMC Psychiatry.

Christine E. Grella, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California in Los Angeles, analyzed data from the California Quality of Life Survey on 2,074 Californian adults aged 18 to 64 years, who gave information on sexual orientation and treatment for mental illness in the previous 12 months.

The researchers found that respondents with a mental health disorder were more likely than those without a diagnosed disorder to receive treatment, and the sexual orientation group most likely to seek treatment were lesbian and bisexual women, while heterosexual men were the least likely to seek treatment. The authors further note that sexual minority respondents were also considerably more likely to receive treatment without having a diagnosable disorder.

"The greater propensity for treatment use among those possessing a minority sexual orientation may be related to several factors. These include differential norms that promote help-seeking among sexual minorities in general, particularly among lesbians and bisexual women, as well as higher exposure to discrimination, violence, and other stressful life events," Grella and colleagues conclude. "Further, 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."

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