OBJECTIVES: Sexual orientation disparities in adolescent depressive symptoms are well established, but reasons for these disparities are less well understood. We modeled sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms from late adolescence into young adulthood and evaluated family satisfaction, peer support, cyberbullying victimization, and unmet medical needs as potential mediators.
METHODS: Data were from waves 2 to 6 of the NEXT Generation Health Study (n = 2396), a population-based cohort of US adolescents. We used latent growth models to examine sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms in participants aged 17 to 21 years, conduct mediation analyses, and examine sex differences.
RESULTS: Relative to heterosexual adolescents, sexual minority adolescents (those who are attracted to the same or both sexes or are questioning; 6.3% of the weighted sample) consistently reported higher depressive symptoms from 11th grade to 3 years after high school. Mediation analyses indicated that sexual minority adolescents reported lower family satisfaction, greater cyberbullying victimization, and increased likelihood of unmet medical needs, all of which were associated with higher depressive symptoms. The mediating role of cyberbullying victimization was more pronounced among male than female participants.
CONCLUSIONS: Sexual minority adolescents reported higher depressive symptoms than heterosexual adolescents from late adolescence into young adulthood. Collectively, low family satisfaction, cyberbullying victimization, and unmet medical needs accounted for >45% of differences by sexual orientation. Future clinical research is needed to determine if interventions targeting these psychosocial and health care–related factors would reduce sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms and the optimal timing of such interventions.
- Accepted February 14, 2018.
- Copyright © 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics