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Emotional Distress Among LGBT Youth: The Influence of Perceived Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

by Joanna Almeida, Renee Johnson, Heather Corliss, Beth Molnar, Deborah Azrael
Journal of Youth and Adolescence ()
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Abstract

The authors evaluated emotional distress among 9th-12th grade students, and examined whether the association between LGBT status and emotional distress was mediated by perceptions of having been treated badly or discriminated against because others thought they were gay or lesbian. Data come from a school-based survey in Boston, MA (n=1,032); 10% were LGBT, 58% were female, and age ranged from 13-19 years. About 45% were Black, 31% were Hispanic, and 14% were White. LGBT youth scored significantly higher on the scale of depressive symptomatology. They were also more likely than heterosexual, non-transgendered youth to report suicidal ideation (30% vs. 6%, p<0.0001) and self-harm (5% vs. 3%, p<0.0001). Mediation analyses showed that perceived discrimination accounted for increased depressive symptomatology among LGBT males and females, and accounted for an elevated risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation among LGBT males. Perceived discrimination is a likely contributor to emotional distress among LGBT youth.

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