An Integrated Approach to Young Adult Mental Health Rehab

LGBTQ Youth Mental Health: New Research and Statistics

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Young adults have been hit harder than any other age group by the psychological, political, economic, and social repercussions of the last two years. And within this demographic, young people who identify as LGBTQ have been even more drastically impacted. A new Trevor Project survey on LGBTQ youth mental health found that 69 percent of LGBTQ young adults are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, and 53 percent are suffering from depression. For transgender and nonbinary young adults, LGBTQ depression rates are even higher.

These troubling statistics illuminate the struggles LGBTQ young adults face and the pressing need for social change to support these demographics. This includes those with intersectional identities that encompass more than one marginalized identity or group. These include Asian American/Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and multiracial LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ young adults need tools for resilience and well-being more than ever before.

Know the Facts

82 percent of LGBTQ youth wanted mental healthcare during the past year, but 60 percent were unable to access any services.

New Research on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

The Trevor Project’s 2022 survey of more than 34,000 young people provides a window into LGBTQ youth mental health and LGBTQ youth suicide rates. Here is a sampling of the findings:

  • 37 percent of young adults (ages 18–24) considered suicide during the past year, and 8 percent made a suicide attempt.
  • LGBTQ depression rates increased by 5 percentage points between the 2020 and 2022 surveys. Anxiety increased by 3 percentage points.
  • 51 percent reported that their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during the two years of the pandemic.
  • Three-quarters of LGBTQ youth have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It’s important to understand that a young adult’s sexuality and mental health are not directly related. LGBTQ youth mental health suffers not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in itself. Rather, they face higher risk due to being mistreated and stigmatized in society, as well as by family. Between 20 and 45 percent of the homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ, and most have left home or been kicked out due to family rejection.

LGBTQ Substance Abuse Statistics

Not surprisingly, these LGBTQ youth mental health statistics are reflected in rates of substance abuse among LGBTQ young adults. Studies show that this demographic, particularly women, are at greater risk for alcohol and substance use disorders, due to the intensified stressors they face.

Recent research using data from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that rates of alcohol use among LGBTQ young adults (ages 18–25) are 18 percent higher than their peers. Rates of marijuana use are 59 percent higher. Moreover, lifetime usage of harder drugs—including cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and heroin—is two to three times higher among LGBTQ young adults.

Most significant, higher rates of substance abuse in this population are directly associated with higher LGBTQ suicide rates. Regular prescription drug misuse was associated with nearly three times greater odds of attempting suicide. Regular alcohol use was associated with nearly 50 percent higher likelihood of attempting suicide. And LGBTQ youth under age 21 who regularly used marijuana were nearly twice as likely (1.67 times) to attempt suicide.

LGBTQ Youth in America

Social and political discord in the United States contributes to LGBTQ mental health struggles. In some states, legislation is limiting LGBTQ rights and raising concerns about the future. For example, 93 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth say they are worried about trans people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws. The vast majority of trans youth are also concerned about being denied access to bathrooms and the ability to play school sports.

Moreover, the issues LGBTQ youth face have intensified during the pandemic. According to a survey of LGBTQ graduate and undergraduate students around the country, 30 percent heard their family make negative comments about LGBTQ people more often. In addition, 36 percent were more cautious about their actions around heterosexual people. Close to half were more likely to hide their identity from other people. And a third of transgender and nonbinary students reported experiencing more frequent disrespect of their gender identities.

Resources to Support Mental Health in LGBTQ Youth

  • Support from family: Parental acceptance and affirmation are the most important predictors of LGBTQ mental health. When they are deprived of that acceptance, young adults suffer from the tragic consequences of relational trauma. One study found that LGBTQ young adults who experienced high levels of family rejection during adolescence were nearly six times as likely to be depressed and three times more likely to use illegal drugs. Trevor Project research shows that LGBTQ youth who feel high social support from family attempt suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
  • Self-compassion: It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly effective. Research shows that self-compassion and self-empowerment are essential resources for personal happiness—and can even help overcome a lack of parental acceptance. Mindfulness and positive affirmation practices that build empathy and acceptance for oneself are therefore powerful resources for LGBTQ youth mental health.
  • Supportive communities: Connection is vital for LGBTQ young adults. A review of 34 studies on LGBTQ youth mental health found that community groups and GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliance groups) provided an all-important “sense of solidarity and friendship in the face of isolation.” Feeling connected with the LGBTQ community can even protect young people from the negative outcomes of prejudice, one study found. In addition, caring adults and positive peer connections also serve as invaluable resources.
  • Self-care: Building healthy habits and routines can take some effort, but once these practices are established, they will continue to support young adults throughout life. Self-care includes not just attending to physical health, but also to mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being—whether that means making a gratitude list or savoring the beauty of the ocean or a gorgeous sunset. And self-care also includes seeking the support of a mental healthcare professional if you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, rather than trying to tough it out on your own.

Ultimately, despite the challenges they face, developing and drawing on these resources can help LGBTQ young adults fully embrace who they are and find a path forward to flourishing.

Sources

J LGBTQ Youth. 2021: 3: 287–304.

 Adolescent Research Review. 2020; 5: 187–211.

Emerging Adulthood. 2020 Oct.

J LGBTQ Issues in Counseling. 2015: 9(3): 158–179.

Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Jun; 26(2): 265–278.

Pediatrics. 2009 Jan; 123 (1): 346–352.

The Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021

Co-Occurring Disorders / April 16, 2022

Newport Institute

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