We examined associations of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation with mental disorders among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youths.
We assessed mental disorders by administering a structured diagnostic interview to a community sample of 246 LGBT youths aged 16 to 20 years. Participants also completed the Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI 18).
One third of participants met criteria for any mental disorder, 17% for conduct disorder, 15% for major depression, and 9% for posttraumatic stress disorder. Anorexia and bulimia were rare. Lifetime suicide attempts were frequent (31%) but less so in the prior 12 months (7%). Few racial/ethnic and gender differences were statistically significant. Bisexually identified youths had lower prevalences of every diagnosis. The BSI 18 had high negative predictive power (90%) and low positive predictive power (25%) for major depression.
LGBT youths had higher prevalences of mental disorder diagnoses than youths in national samples, but were similar to representative samples of urban, racial/ethnic minority youths. Suicide behaviors were similar to those among representative youth samples in the same geographic area. Questionnaires measuring psychological distress may overestimate depression prevalence among this population.