Thursday, February 23, 2017

Supportive Social Networks Can Mitigate LGBT Mental Health Risk: Study

Written by Elle Hunt

Sexuality poses no risk to mental health, a new study has found, challenging a common perception that homosexual and bisexual people are at risk of poor mental health and suicide because of their orientation. The research, carried out over eight years and led by the Australian National University, found that the risk commonly attributed to sexual orientation was driven by other factors, including negative social interactions, the absence of support, adversity in childhood such as sexual trauma, and even smoking. Homosexual and bisexual people did experience more of these risk factors, which leader researcher Dr Richard Burns said may be a consequence of their orientation, particularly at the time of their coming out.

People of bisexual orientation were found to be at more at risk of poor mental health than those of homosexual orientation, but the study concluded the risk was mitigated “when all individuals are provided with positive and supportive social networks and they have lower risk factors”, said Burns. He said a heterosexual person feeling unsupported in a stressful or traumatic situation “would be at just as much risk as a homosexual who is reporting negative social support ... It’s these other risk factors that are driving people’s risks, not their sexual orientation.” Burns added that social support and negative health behaviours were “modifiable”.

Burns said an absence of support from family, friends and the wider community was a known risk factor for poor mental health, and that could include discrimination under legislation or in public discourse. READ MORE

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