One-third of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth have attempted suicide in their lifetime - a prevalence comparable to urban, minority youth - but a majority do not experience mental illness, a new study by University of Illinois at Chicago has found.
The researchers recruited 246 ethnically diverse 16- to 20-year-old LGBT youth in Chicago and conducted structured psychiatric interviews to assess major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, and conduct disorder.
While a third of participants did meet criteria for at least one of the mental health disorders, about 70 percent of LGBT youth did not meet criteria for any mental disorders.
"One of the most important findings from our work is that most of these youth are doing very well and are not experiencing mental health problems," said Brian Mustanski, assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC and lead author of the study.
Nearly 10 percent of study participants met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about 15 percent met criteria for major depression.
A third had made a suicide attempt at some point in their life, and about 6 percent had made a suicide attempt in the last year.
The researchers also looked at differences between sub-groups of LGBT youth to determine if bisexual youth tend to have more mental health problems than gay and lesbian youth, or if racial-minority youth experience more mental health problems than white youth.
Contrary to previous research that suggested that bisexual youth are more likely to have mental disorders than other groups, Mustanski found just the opposite. Bisexual youths had a lower prevalence of mental disorders compared with others in the study.
The study has been published online and in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.