Compared with heterosexuals, more than twice as many gays, lesbians and bisexuals seek counseling for mental health problems or substance abuse, according to research from the University of California, Los Angeles. In a survey of more than 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 64, researchers found that 48.5% of homosexuals and bisexuals had received mental health or substance abuse services in the previous year, compared to just 22.5% of heterosexuals.
The study, published online in the journal BMC Psychiatry, suggests that the increased need for counseling services may have several different causes. To begin with, women generally use mental health services more frequently than men—a trend consistent with the study results, which found that lesbians and bisexual women were the most likely to seek counseling, while heterosexual men were the least likely to do so. Additionally, as sexual minorities—particularly in the midst of the raging national debate over gay rights—gays, lesbians and bisexuals are more likely to confront violence, discrimination or other stressful life events, increasing the likelihood that they will seek coping services. Lastly, the authors write, “the culture of gay and lesbian communities may increase the social norms and expectations that therapeutic services are appropriate places for coping with the stresses associated with being a sexual minority.”