Trajectories of Mental Health Difficulties in Young People Who are Attracted to the Same Gender: A Systematic Review

  • Dylan GilbeyEmail author
  • Simone Mahfouda
  • Jeneva Ohan
  • Ashleigh Lin
  • Yael Perry
Systematic Review


There is clear evidence that people who are attracted to the same gender face worse mental health outcomes than their peers; however, it is unclear if this problem is worse at particular stages of development. To clarify this, a systematic review was conducted to describe the overall trajectories of mental health difficulties across development for same-gender attracted youth compared to their peers. The search identified ten studies that examined depressive symptoms, suicidality and eating disorder symptoms. Disparities in these outcomes were evident by the earliest time points recorded and lasted across the full age range of youth under investigation (ages 10–25). There was some evidence that risk of depressive symptoms and suicidality specifically for same-gender attracted youth was greater in both absolute and relative terms during late adolescence. As young people who are attracted to the same gender are vulnerable to mental health problems across their youth, psychological interventions should be developed which target this group across this span. Interventions beginning at least as early as early adolescence may be ideal to help avoid particular elevations in depressive symptoms and suicidality which are evident in late adolescence for this group.


Systematic review Mental health Sexual orientation Youth 


Authors’ Contributions

DG conceived of the study, developed and executed the search strategy, co-screened the papers, co-assessed their quality, extracted and interpreted the data and contributed to writing and editing the manuscript; SM co-conducted the screening process, assessed the quality of the papers and contributed to writing and editing the manuscript; JO contributed to the interpretation of the data and to writing and editing the manuscript; AL contributed to the interpretation of the data and to writing and editing the manuscript; YP participated in the design and coordination of the study, advised on the development of the search and screening processes and contributed to writing and editing the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.


DG is supported by a Research Training Program Stipend funded by the Australian Government. SM is supported by a Research Training Program Stipend funded by the Australian Government, The Perth Children’s Hospital Fund PhD Top-up Scholarship and a Raine Medical Foundation PhD Top Up Scholarship. AL is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellowship (#1148793). YP is supported by the Giorgetta Family Fellowship funded by the Giorgetta Family, who are philanthropic supporters of the Telethon Kids Institute.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

For this type of study, consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Telethon Kids InstituteThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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