The Relationship Between Indicators of Depression and Anxiety and Sexual Orientation in Canadian Women
Previous studies examining the associations between women’s sexual orientation and mental health have obtained inconsistent results. Whereas some studies have suggested that status as a lesbian or bisexual woman may be associated with greater mental health risk, others have suggested that bisexual women may be specifically vulnerable to mental health problems. The current study examined two competing models in a non-clinical sample of Canadian women (N = 278). The first model predicted that women who reported bisexual attraction would endorse more indicators of depression and anxiety compared to women who reported monosexuality (either same- or opposite-sex attraction). The second model predicted that women who reported relatively greater same-sex attraction would exhibit elevated indicators of depression and anxiety compared to women who reported opposite-sex attraction. Consistent with Model 1, greater bisexual attraction predicted greater endorsement of indicators of depression and anxiety compared to greater same-sex or opposite-sex attraction. These findings suggest that, in women, bisexuality may be associated with higher risk of depression and anxiety than monosexuality. Future research may benefit from exploring risk factors potentially unique to the mental health of bisexual women.
KeywordsSexual orientation Depression Anxiety Mental health Bisexuality
We thank all of the individuals who agreed to participate in our study. Various stages of this research were supported by the University of Lethbridge; by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Masters Scholarship and a Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group Research Grant to LJP; by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship to DPV; by a CIHR Doctoral Award to TJP; and by a CIHR Catalyst Grant (Methods and Measures for Gender, Sex, and Health; Grant No. 45546) and an Alberta Innovates Health Solutions Sustainability Fund Grant (Grant No. 43528) to PLV.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The University of Lethbridge Human Subjects Research Committee approved this research. Participants were required to provide informed consent prior to taking part in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement 2 (2014): Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
- Austin, S. B., Jun, H.-J., Jackson, B., Spiegelman, D., Rich-Edwards, J., Corliss, H. L., & Wright, R. J. (2008). Disparities in child abuse victimization in lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Journal of Women’s Health, 17, 597–606.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Bartlett, M. S. (1954). A note on the multiplying factors for various chi square approximations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B, 16, 296–298.Google Scholar
- Burton, C. M., Marshal, M. P., Chisolm, D. J., Sucato, G. S., & Friedman, M. S. (2013). Sexual minority-related victimization as a mediator of mental health disparities in sexual minority youth: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 394–402.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Cochran, S. D., Sullivan, J. G., & Mays, V. M. (2003). Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 53–61.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Gilman, S. E., Cochran, S. D., Mays, V. M., Hughes, M., Ostrow, D., & Kessler, R. C. (2001). Risk of psychiatric disorders among individuals reporting same-sex sexual partners in the national comorbidity survey. American Journal of Public Health, 9, 933–939.Google Scholar
- Hatzenbuehler, M. L., O'Cleirigh, C., Grasso, C., Mayer, K., Safren, S., & Bradford, J. (2012). Effects of same-sex marriage laws on health care use and expenditures in sexual minority men: A quasi-natural experiment. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 285–291.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- King, M., Semlyen, J., See Tai, S., Killaspy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., & Nazareth, I. (2008). A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self harm in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry, 8, 70. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-70.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar