Sexual Orientation and Psychiatric Vulnerability: A Twin Study of Neuroticism and Psychoticism
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- Zietsch, B.P., Verweij, K.J.H., Bailey, J.M. et al. Arch Sex Behav (2011) 40: 133. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9508-4
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Recent evidence indicates that homosexuals and bisexuals are, on average, at greater risk for psychiatric problems than heterosexuals. It is assumed with some supporting evidence that prejudice often experienced by nonheterosexuals makes them more vulnerable to psychiatric disorder, but there has been no investigation of alternative explanations. Here we used Eysenck’s Neuroticism and Psychoticism scales as markers for psychiatric vulnerability and compared heterosexuals with nonheterosexuals in a community-based sample of identical and nonidentical twins aged between 19 and 52 years (N = 4904). Firstly, we tested whether apparent sexual orientation differences in psychiatric vulnerability simply mirrored sex differences—for our traits, this would predict nonheterosexual males having elevated Neuroticism scores as females do, and nonheterosexual females having elevated Psychoticism scores as males do. Our results contradicted this idea, with nonheterosexual men and women scoring significantly higher on Neuroticism and Psychoticism than their heterosexual counterparts, suggesting an overall elevation of psychiatric risk in nonheterosexuals. Secondly, we used our genetically informative sample to assess the viability of explanations invoking a common cause of both nonheterosexuality and psychiatric vulnerability. We found significant genetic correlation between sexual orientation and both Neuroticism and Psychoticism, but no corresponding environmental correlations, suggesting that if there is a common cause of both nonheterosexuality and psychiatric vulnerability it is likely to have a genetic basis rather than an environmental basis.