Gay, lesbian, bi and questioning youth are four times more likely to self-harm with suicidal intent compared to straight youth.
These queer kids are also far more likely to experience symptoms of depression from as young as 10 years old. These symptoms will persist then into their 20s.
Researchers from the University of College London also found LGBQ youth will have worse mental health overall.
Gay teens more likely to self-harm
‘We’ve known for some time that sexual minority youth have worse mental health outcomes,’ study author Dr Gemma Lewis said.
‘It’s quite concerning that we’ve found this trend starts as early as 10 years old, and worsens throughout adolescence.’
The study is the first of its kind in the UK, questioning 4,828 young people.
Participants responded to questions about depression seven times from age 10 to 21, and at 16 and 21 were asked if they self-harmed in the past year.
While depressive symptoms increased throughout their teenage years for all groups, the increase was far greater for LGBQ teens.
Self-harm was more common for non-straight teens at both 16 and 21.
At 18, LGBQ teens were twice as likely to fulfil the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of depression.
‘Sense of feeling different’
Madeleine Irish, first author, suggests the sense of feeling different may affect mental health in children.
She suggested a range of stressors could be involved. These can include ‘discrimination, stigmatisation, social isolation, shame or fear or rejection, including at home or at school.’
Dr Lewis added: ‘The fact we found mental health disparities at such a young age suggests that early interventions may be useful to prevent and treat such mental health challenges.
‘Despite changes to public perceptions and attitudes in recent years, gay, lesbian and bisexual youth remain at increased risk of long-term mental health problems—addressing this inequality should be a research, policy, clinical and public mental health priority.’