HealthDay News — Sexual-minority youth have higher depressive symptoms at age 10 and an increased likelihood of self-harm in adolescence and young adulthood, according to a study published online Dec. 11 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
Madeleine Irish, from King’s College London, and colleagues compared trajectories of depressive symptoms in 4,828 sexual-minority and heterosexual adolescents who reported their sexual orientation when aged 16 years. When the adolescents were aged 10 to 21 years, the authors assessed depressive symptoms at seven time points using the short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (sMFQ).
The researchers found that depressive symptoms were higher in sexual minorities than in heterosexuals at age 10 years (mean sMFQ, 4.58 versus 3.79), and these symptoms increased with age. At each time point, depressive symptoms increased by 0.31 and 0.49 sMFQ points in heterosexuals and sexual minorities, respectively. Compared with heterosexual adolescents, sexual-minority adolescents were more likely to report self-harm in the previous year at ages 16 and 21 years (adjusted odds ratio, 4.23); there was no evidence that this estimate decreased with age. Sexual minorities were more likely to report lifetime self-harm with suicidal intent compared with heterosexuals at age 21 years (odds ratio, 4.53).
“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,” a coauthor said in a statement.