Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Gays' mental health: New data

In Brief

Gays' mental health: New data

Homosexual and bisexual men and women and their heterosexual brothers and sisters report similar overall mental health, although there are some significant differences. That conclusion comes from a study comparing gays and lesbians with volunteers from their own families — suitable controls because they usually belonged to the same ethnic group and social class and were raised in the same households.

Women and men who responded to advertisements in gay and lesbian publications were asked to provide the name of a brother or sister (homosexual or heterosexual) who might also be willing to participate in the study. The subjects were told that the research was about differences and similarities in the lives of adult siblings, with no special emphasis on sexual orientation.

All participants responded to questionnaires that provided measures of self-esteem, satisfaction with life, and psychological distress (depression, anxiety, hostility, hypochondria, paranoia, and so on). Participants were also asked whether they had had suicidal thoughts, made a suicide attempt, sought therapy for mental health problems, taken psychiatric medications, or been admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

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