Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues

Symposium

Longitudinal Associations Between Outness and Health Outcomes for Bisexual Versus Gay/Lesbian Emerging Adults

Saturday, November 18
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Aqua Salon C & D, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: L / G / B / T | Stigma | Risk / Vulnerability Factors
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Sexual minorities are at increased risk for substance use and mental health problems. Outness (i.e., the extent to which an individual is open about their sexual identity) is considered to be an important factor in determining health outcomes in this population. However, there are critical limitations to existing research that limit our understanding of the influence of outness on health. First, the majority of studies on this topic have been cross-sectional and, as such, do not provide information about the direction of effects. Second, few studies have considered potential differences in these associations between different subgroups of sexual minorities.


 


Methods: To address these gaps, the current study examined gender and sexual identity as moderators of the longitudinal associations between outness and substance use (cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, illicit drugs) and mental health (depression, anxiety) in a diverse sample of sexual minority emerging adults (N = 164; ages 18-22; 56% Black, 17% White, 12% Latino/a, 15% Other). The sample included 94 females (35% bisexual) and 70 males (16% bisexual). Analyses used four waves of data to assess whether outness predicted changes in substance use/mental health in the following six months.


 


Results: For bisexuals, being more out was associated with increases in substance use (cigarettes, marijuana, and illicit drugs) and depression. For gay/lesbian individuals, being more out was associated with decreases in depression, but increases in marijuana use. Outness was not associated with changes in alcohol use or anxiety.


 


Conclusions: While being open about one’s sexual identity has the potential to facilitate connections to support and community, it also has the potential to contribute to negative health outcomes, especially for bisexuals. There is a need for interventions to reduce societal stigma related to bisexuality and to understand why outness is associated with negative health outcomes for this population. Given that coming out can have risks and benefits, clinicians can help facilitate informed disclosure decisions that take into account an individual’s specific circumstances.

Brian Feinstein

Postdoctoral Scholar
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

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Longitudinal Associations Between Outness and Health Outcomes for Bisexual Versus Gay/Lesbian Emerging Adults



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