Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community at high risk of depression
The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians - Private Lives 2 (PL2) - has been launched today by the Victorian Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Mary Wooldridge.
A large study of over 4,000 GLBT people found nearly 80 per cent of them experienced at least one episode of intense anxiety in the past 12 months, and over a quarter of respondents had been diagnosed with, or treated for, an anxiety disorder in the same period.
While the study showed that just over three quarters of the total sample reported having a regular GP, only around 69 per cent reported that their GP knew of their sexuality.
A significant percentage of respondents reported ‘occasionally’ or ‘usually’ hiding their sexuality or gender identity in a range of situations for fear of heterosexist violence or discrimination: 44 per cent in public and 33.6 per cent when accessing services.
Young people aged 16 to 24 years were more likely than any other age group to hide their sexuality or gender identity.
The study, managed jointly by La Trobe University Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, is the second in a series of studies conducted on the health and wellbeing of GLBT Australians.
The project was supported by beyondblue with funds from The Movember Foundation, with additional funds provided by the Victorian Government and a La Trobe University faculty grant.
The survey builds on the findings of the first Private Lives report (PL1) published in 2006. It explored the impact of systemic discrimination on GLBT Australians’ quality of life and their use of health services.
‘While the research documents show an increased acceptance of GLBT people and marginal improvements in their general health, it also shows GLBT people continue to experience much higher levels of abuse and discrimination. A likely outcome of this is the poorer mental health participants had compared with the population at large.
‘The most common health conditions among participants were depression and anxiety/nervous disorders,’ says Mr Leonard.
Chairman of beyondblue: the national depression and anxiety initiative, The Hon. Jeff Kennett says these findings are in line with other research beyondblue has funded. ‘This research strengthens our resolve to continue our work with this community to reduce discrimination and improve help-seeking. Mid-year, with the support of our GLBTI Reference Group, we will be launching an awareness campaign to address some of the disturbing statistics highlighted in this report,’ he says.
Movember’s Chief Operating Officer Jason Hincks says: ‘Our strategic goals challenge us to improve the quality of life of all men dealing with mental health problems and this can only be achieved if the issues being faced are truly understood. We know that the survey findings will directly affect and shape programs and services offered to the GLBT community and as such, are very proud to be funding such an important piece of research.’
In the six years since PL1 was launched, there have been amendments to Commonwealth legislation recognising the rights and responsibilities of same sex couples.
‘Almost 86 per cent of respondents said they were aware of recent legislative changes recognising same sex couples as partnered for Centrelink and other purposes, indicating the success of government publicity campaigns. Just over 10 per cent of participants said they had been affected by these changes.
‘Relationship recognition was important for many of the survey participants. Nearly 18 per cent of participants who were currently in a relationship reported that they had formalised their commitment (through marriage or some other ceremony), and 34.4 per cent said that they had yet to formalise their relationship but either planned or would like to,’ says Mr Leonard.