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Research Links Psychological Distress and Drug Use in LGBT Community

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A report created by researchers at LaTrobe University has revealed links between psychological distress and drug use among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians.

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The report, entitled ‘A Closer Look at Private Lives 2’, is a new analysis of a nationwide survey funded by beyondblue and The Movember Foundation. Almost 4000 LGBT Australians were surveyed.

Researchers examined survey findings from 2012 to investigate links between experiences of discrimination, drug use, LGBT and mainstream community engagement, and health service use.

A greater prevalence of mental health issues was linked to drug use, which was found to be considerably higher among LGBT people than the general population, and the report suggests may be linked to experiences of discrimination. Psychological distress was found to be greater in those who had used drugs in the past twelve months compared to those who hadn’t.

The study also found that participating in community events was associated with increased resilience for transgender people and lesbian and bisexual women.

For most groups participating in the survey, mental health appeared to improve with age. Additionally, lower socio-economic status was found to be a strong indicator of mental health problems among LGBT Australians.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the findings indicated that LGBT people are at greater risk of poor mental health than the general population and encouraged people to engage in community events.

“Rates of psychological distress are higher among LGBT Australians with lower income and education levels, who have been subjected to heterosexist harassment or abuse, or who have consumed one or more illicit drugs,” Ms Harman said.

“While we see a clear link between these factors and poorer mental health, it is encouraging to see that participating in both mainstream and LGBT community events improves resilience and reduces the risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.”

La Trobe University lead researcher William Leonard concurred.

“Our research shows when involvement and participation in society increases amongst LGBT Australians, their mental health problems decrease. This is the way to tackle discrimination and depression and it needs to be happening now if we are to make progress in reversing the imbalance in their poorer rates of mental health across the board,” he said.

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