Study: LGBT Adults Have Better Self Esteem, Less Depression If They Came Out In School

LGBT Youth & Adults

By Andrew M. Seaman

(Reuters Health) - Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have better self esteem and less depression as young adults if they were open about their sexual orientations as adolescents, a new study suggests.

Attempts to hide sexual orientation are generally unsuccessful, and the result is more abuse and more depression, the authors say in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

What's needed, said Stephen Russell, the study's lead author, are "supporting environments so that all kids can figure out and be as true to themselves as they can be."

Research shows that adults fare better after disclosing their sexual orientations, but there was little evidence on how being "out" in middle or high school affects mental health later on.

That question occurred to Russell, an expert on adolescent mental health at the University of Arizona in Tucson, when a high school in Okeechobee, Florida attempted to block students from forming an LGBT-straight alliance group - also known as a gay-straight alliance.

The case was settled in the students' favor, but an unanswered question was whether students end up better off later in life if they're open about their sexual orientations, compared to those who are not.

"There was no real data to suggest otherwise, Russell said.

The new findings are from a study of 245 LGBT young adults in California, ages 21 to 25, who reported their openness with their sexual orientations during middle and high school. They also took surveys to measure depression, self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found, LGBT-related abuse at school was tied to negative adjustment during young adulthood. The abuse occurred whether the students tried to hide their sexual orientations or not.

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