Great Britain

More than twice as many young LGBT+ people are worried about their mental health on a daily basis, study finds

Young LBGT+ teenagers are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to worry about their mental health on a daily basis, a new report has found.

A survey by Just Like Us, a charity which supports LGBT+ young people, revealed that 55 per cent of LGBT+ 11 to 18 year olds are anxious about their mental health on a daily basis, in comparison to 26 per cent of non-LGBT+ people.

The findings mirror the disproportionately high rates of mental health problems among LGBT+ adults, with previous polling finding just over half had suffered depression in the last year, and three in five had experienced anxiety.

The latest study, shared exclusively withThe Independent, found seven in 10 LGBT+ young people report their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began, in comparison to half of non-LGBT+ young people.

While one in four LGBT+ young people say they have experienced strain in the place they live on a daily basis, only 15 per cent of non-LGBT+ people said the same. Researchers polled 2,934 secondary school pupils who were aged between 11 and 18 - over a third of whom identified as LGBT+ - for the study.

A breakdown of the research shows 78 per cent of young lesbians say their mental health has deteriorated in lockdown, in comparison to 74 per cent of bisexual young people, and 71 per cent of male gay teenagers.

While 70 per cent of transgender young people and half of non-LGBT+ young people said the same.

The latest research found six in ten young lesbians worried for their mental health on a daily basis, in comparison to four in ten male gay teenagers.

Amy Ashenden, of Just Like Us, told The Independent the study’s findings are “really worrying” as she called for greater specialised LGBT+ mental health support.

She added: “I am a little bit surprised by the findings because lesbians are so often overlooked. I wouldn’t necessarily have suspected so much struggling.

“As lesbians, we have a lack of community spaces funding and low visibility in the media. It is hard to find and connect with other people like you. Pre-Covid, lots of gay spaces catered for men and were not that trans or lesbian inclusive.

“Lesbians are at the intersection of sexism and homophobia. You’re not meeting your gender expectations because you’re attracted to women. You have a double pile on of things to navigate.”

Ms Ashenden noted lesbians “come in all shapes and sizes” as she warned butch lesbians get “looks” on the street.

“I am a butch lesbian,” she added. “I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been looked at or shouted at in the street. People always seem to have an opinion. Whether it is looks on the tube or bus or men shouting at me on the street.”

Ms Ashenden, whose charity works with a range of schools, noted a lot of legal changes for the gay community such as adoption and marriage which impact adults do not effect young LGBT+ people.

She said she imagined the proportion of older lesbians suffering from mental health problems would be roughly the same but they may not be struggling as much due to being at a different stage in their life.

“Young lesbians might be living at home with families who aren’t accepting or they might not have friends who are accepting,” Ms Ashenden added. “Adults have more agency to seek out community. If a lesbian had come into my school to talk about how it is okay to be yourself that would have drastically changed my life.”

Across the world, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and to try and kill themselves, yet the overall suicide rate for men is considerably higher than for women. But women remain more likely than men to attempt suicide. Adult women in the US reported a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as men.

Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Just Like Us, noted while the Covid crisis has been a “difficult period” for all, their research shows the repercussions of the pandemic have “not fallen evenly”.

Eloise Stonborough, of Stonewall, said: “Rates of mental health in the LGBT+ community are higher and particularly high among lesbian and bi women, trans people and women of colour. One of the great challenges is there a real lack of representation and visibility among lesbian bi and trans women.”

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