June 09, 2017
1 min read

Sexual minority college students report more stress, higher mental health utilization

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College students who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning or queer reported higher rates of psychological distress, academic impairment related to mental health, and were more likely to utilize services on and off-campus, compared with heterosexual peers.

“It’s encouraging that college students who identify as sexual minorities are more likely to utilize mental health services, but our findings suggest there is a need to develop campus-based mental health services tailored to this group and address barriers to using them,” Michael S. Dunbar, PhD, an associate behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, said in a press release.

To compare mental health service utilization among lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning or queer college students with that among heterosexual students, researchers conducted an online survey among 33,220 college students in California. Surveys measured mental health needs and service utilization.

Overall, 7% of the cohort identified as sexual minorities.

Sexual minority students reported higher rates of psychological distress (26% vs. 18%; P < .001) and mental health-related academic impairment (17% vs. 11%; P < .001), compared with heterosexual students.

Bradley Stein
Bradley D. Stein

Sexual minority students were 1.87 (95% CI, 1.5-2.34) times more likely to utilize any mental health services, compared with heterosexual students.

Further, sexual minority students were more likely to report using off-campus services and barriers to on-campus services, such as embarrassment to use services and uncertainty about eligibility for services.

“Our study underscores the need for additional actions to increase access to and use of mental health services among all students,” study researcher Bradley D. Stein, MD, PhD, a physician scientist at RAND Corporation, said in the release. “It also highlights the need for efforts to ensure that campuses’ mental health services are sensitive and responsive to the needs of sexual minority students, enabling all students to address their mental health needs and maximize their chances for success in college and beyond.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.