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Marshal et al

Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality Among Heterosexual and Sexual Minority Youth
Marshal MP, Dermody SS, Cheong J, Burton CM, Friedman MS, Aranda F and Hughes TL

Although studies have shown that sexual minority youth (adolescents who report a same-sex romantic or sexual orientation) report higher rates of depression and suicidality than do heterosexual youth, it was unclear whether these disparities continue as youth transition into young adulthood.   A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine found three key areas of importance when investigating health disparities among sexual minority individuals:  1) further investigation of mental health disparities within the sexual minority community is needed; 2) such research must take into account the entire life progression to observe longstanding patterns; and 3) underlying causes to these mental health issues can be explained with the minority stress model, which attributes the health problems in sexual minority individuals to the stress resulting from consistent pattern of bias and prejudice present in a predominantly heterosexual culture. The report’s findings inspired a study by Dr. Michael Marshal, Sarah Dermody and their colleagues to more fully investigate mental health trends among sexual minority individuals during the transition from youth to young adulthood. 

Utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Dr. Marshal and his team analyzed rates of depression and suicidality for heterosexual youth and sexual minority youth.  They determined that not only were depression and suicidal rates higher for sexual minority youth than for heterosexual youth, but the differences between these two groups continued from adolescence into young adulthood.  The greatest gaps in these rates were seen for females and for individuals who identified as bisexual.  The investigators concluded that prevention efforts and early intervention programs beginning in childhood and early adolescence are needed to address these higher rates of depression and suicidality in sexual minority youth.

Michael P. Marshal, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh)
Chad M. Burton, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh)
Sarah S. Dermody, MS (Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh)
Mark S. Friedman, PhD (Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh)
JeeWon Cheong, PhD (Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
Frances Aranda, PhD (College of Nursing-Healthy Systems Science, University of Illinois at Chicago)
Tonda L. Hughes, RN, PhD, FAAN (College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago)

The results of this investigation were published in the August 2013 issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Click here to access the abstract for Dr. Marshal’s article.