Partnership status and mental health in a nationally representative sample of sexual minorities.

Bianca D.M. Wilson, Evan A. Krueger, Amanda M. Pollitt, Wendy B. Bostwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research has consistently shown mental health differences between sexual minority subgroups with bisexual people often reporting higher levels of psychological distress than lesbians and gay men. Relationship status has been suggested, but not well studied, as a potential factor contributing to subgroup differences in mental health. Using a national probability sample of nontransgender sexual minority adults across three age cohorts (18–25, 34–41, 52–59 years), we assessed group differences in psychological distress (Kessler 6) between lesbian/gay (N = 505), bisexual (N = 272), and queer/pansexual (N = 75) respondents. We examined whether relationship status (single/partnered) moderated the relationship between sexual identity and psychological distress. Among those that were partnered, we tested whether key partner characteristics related to sexual identity—gender of partner (cisgender same-sex/transgender or cisgender different-sex) and partner sexual identity (same or mixed sexual orientation relationship)—were significantly associated with psychological distress. In bivariate analyses, bisexual and queer/pansexual respondents reported more psychological distress than gay/lesbian respondents, among both men and women. In multivariable analyses, there was not a significant main effect of sexual identity, but there was a significant interaction between sexual identity and partnership status on psychological distress among women. Specifically, while there were no significant differences in psychological distress between subgroups of single women, among partnered women, queer/pansexual women had more distress than lesbian/gay women. Further, partnership was associated with reduced distress among lesbian/gay women, but not among bisexual or queer/pansexual women. Among men, there were no significant interaction effects between sexual identity and partnership status on psychological distress. Being in a mixed orientation relationship, but not gender of partner, was a significant predictor of psychological distress among both women and men across sexual identities. Additional research should assess the partnership dynamics contributing to the association between partnership characteristics and mental health among sexual minority populations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) This study sought to examine whether being in a relationship helped to explain mental health disparities between gay/lesbian, bisexual and queer/pansexual people. Further, it aimed to advance our understanding of whether the gender or sexual identity of people’s partners are related to psychological distress, and whether these factors matter differently for various sexual minority groups. Findings show that plurisexual (bisexual, queer, pansexual) identified adults continue to report higher average levels of psychological distress compared to gays and lesbians, and that being partnered with someone of a different sexual identity than their own is related to mental health concerns across all groups. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • bisexual
  • community
  • mental health
  • queer
  • sexual minority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Psychology(all)

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