A new study has said that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals who have ever had a same-sex sex partner are one-and-a-half to two times as likely to experience violent events, especially in childhood. Gays also have double the risk of experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of these events.
This study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Children's Hospital Boston, is the first to directly link higher rates of PTSD in those four groups (classified as sexual minorities) to greater violence exposure.
Traumatic events like active combat, child maltreatment, interpersonal violence, or unexpected death of a loved one can lead to PTSD, a mental illness which is characterized by distressing memories of the traumatic event, avoidance of objects, places, or people associated with the event, emotional numbing and an increased sense of vigilance.
PTSD in turn can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and difficulties with relationships and employment if it goes untreated.
Study's lead author Andrea Roberts, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at HSPH, said that one of the most important lessons from this study is that "medical professionals need to be aware that a high percentage of patients with minority sexual orientation may have been victims of interpersonal violence and may benefit from follow-up care to cope with the aftermath of violent victimization."
This study used data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.
The research appears online and in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.