The mental health status of young adult and mid-life non-heterosexual Australian women

  • McNair R
  • Kavanagh A
  • Agius P
 et al. 
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Objectives: To compare the mental health status of early adult and
mid-life Australian women according to sexual orientation.
Methods and sample: Cross-sectional analyses of the Australian
Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) surveys for the younger
(22-27 years) and mid-age (50-55 years) cohorts. Women were classified
into one of four groups: exclusively heterosexual, mainly heterosexual,
bisexual and lesbian. Regression analyses were used to examine the
effects of sexual orientation on mental health after adjusting for age,
region of residence and education and to assess the potential mediating
roles of stress, abuse and social support.
Results: Younger, mainly heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian women had
poorer mental health outcomes than exclusively heterosexual women on all
outcome measures except anxiety in lesbian women, even after adjustment
for age, region and education. Mid-age mainly heterosexual women had
poorer mental health on all outcomes except for medically diagnosed
anxiety and bisexual women had significantly higher odds of self-harm
than exclusively heterosexual women. All non-heterosexual women in both
cohorts reported higher levels of stress and lifetime abuse. Controlling
for stress, abuse and social support attenuated the mental health
Conclusions: The poorer mental health in young non-heterosexual women
and mid-life mainly heterosexual women highlights the need for health
care providers to be particularly sensitive to mental health issues in
these women. Stress, social support and lifetime abuse may play a role
in explaining the poorer mental health and discrimination may also be

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  • R McNair

  • A Kavanagh

  • P Agius

  • B Tong

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