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Bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals have higher levels of depressive symptoms – study

Bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms. This was partially explained by childhood gender nonconformity. The effect on depressive symptoms was moderated by parental attitudes.

Bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals have significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms, and this may be partially explained by childhood gender nonconformity.

This is according to a study – “Childhood Gender Nonconformity and Sexual Orientation Disparities in Depressive Symptoms: The Role of Parental Attitudes” by Yin Xu and Qazi Rahman – that appeared in LGBT Health.

This study specifically wanted to test whether sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms are partially explained by recalled childhood gender nonconformity, and whether the proportion of this association explained by childhood gender nonconformity is moderated by recalled parental attitudes toward childhood gender nonconformity.

The researchers recruited a convenience sample of young adults from two Chinese online survey platforms (272 heterosexual males, 272 bisexual males, 272 gay males, 272 heterosexual females, 272 bisexual females, and 272 lesbian females). Both mediation and moderated mediation models were conducted.

The findings of the study included:

  • For both sexes, bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals reported significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than heterosexual individuals.
  • These sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms were partially explained by childhood gender nonconformity.
  • The effect of childhood gender nonconformity on depressive symptoms was significantly moderated by parental attitudes.
  • The mediating effect of childhood gender nonconformity on sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms was strongest at the more negative levels (one standard deviation [SD] above the mean) of parental attitudes and weakest at more tolerant levels (one SD below the mean) of parental attitudes.

The researchers concluded that “childhood gender nonconformity may be a partial contributor to sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms and this indirect effect may be moderated by parental attitudes toward childhood gender nonconformity, with the indirect effect decreasing when parental attitudes move from negative toward more tolerant levels.”

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