|Analysis: Links Between Sexual Orientation, Violence, and PTSD|
|SciMed - Neuroscience|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Tuesday, 20 April 2010 08:00|
Boston, MA, USA. A new large-scale study provides hard data documenting that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals who have ever had a same-sex sex partner are more likely to experience violent events and subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder.
The researchers found that such individuals are up to two times as likely to experience violent events, especially in childhood, than the general population.
They also have double the risk of experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of these events.
The study is the first to directly link higher rates of PTSD in those four groups (classified as sexual minorities) to greater violence exposure. The findings are from a team at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Children's Hospital Boston. Their study appears in the American Journal of Public Health where the The authors urge health-care providers to look for and address possible stress disorder among this group of adolescents and adults.
Traumatic events like active combat, child maltreatment, interpersonal violence, or unexpected death of a loved one can lead to PTSD, a mental illness which is characterized by distressing memories of the traumatic event, avoidance of objects, places, or people associated with the event, emotional numbing and an increased sense of vigilance.
PTSD in turn can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and difficulties with relationships and employment if it goes untreated.
One of the most important lessons from this study, said lead author Andrea Roberts, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at HSPH, is that "medical professionals need to be aware that a high percentage of patients with minority sexual orientation may have been victims of interpersonal violence and may benefit from follow-up care to cope with the aftermath of violent victimization."
"Our study documents that profound sexual orientation disparities exist in exposure to violence and other traumatic events beginning in childhood," said senior author Karestan Koenen, associate professor of society, human development and health at HSPH.
"Something about our society puts individuals with minority sexual orientations at high risk for victimization. This is a major public health problem that needs to be addressed."
This study used data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. Respondents in the study were asked not only about how they classify their sexual orientation, but also about their sexual behavior and feelings of sexual attraction.
This enabled the researchers to analyze in more detail to document the extent to which heterosexuals with same-sex attractions but no same-sex sex partners were not at elevated risk of violence or PTSD. This is possibly because heterosexual individuals who do not act on their homosexual attractions may not face as much stigma, the authors suggest.
Exposure to multiple traumatic events at a young age may be contributing to the increased rates of PTSD among sexual minorities:
The researchers suggest five mechanisms for the increased risk of victimization and PTSD among sexual minorities:
The authors urge that health care providers and families be aware that sexual minorities face a greater risk of violence and PTSD and may have a history of trauma that should be addressed before it becomes mentally debilitating.
FundingThis study was supported by the Harvard Training Program in Psychiatric Genetics and Translational Research, the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
CitationPervasive Trauma Exposure Among US Sexual Orientation Minority Adults and Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Andrea L. Roberts, S. Bryn Austin, Heather L. Corliss, Ashley K. Vandermorris, Karestan C. Koenen. American Journal of Public Health 2010. ePub ahead of print. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.168971
Objectives. We assessed sexual orientation disparities in exposure to violence and other potentially traumatic events and onset of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a representative US sample.
Methods. We used data from 34653 noninstitutionalized adult US residents from the 2004 to 2005 wave of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
Results. Lesbians and gay men, bisexuals, and heterosexuals who reported any same-sex sexual partners over their lifetime had greater risk of childhood maltreatment, interpersonal violence, trauma to a close friend or relative, and unexpected death of someone close than did heterosexuals with no same-sex attractions or partners. Risk of onset of PTSD was higher among lesbians and gays (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.03; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.34, 3.06), bisexuals (AOR=2.13; 95% CI=1.38, 3.29), and heterosexuals with any same-sex partners (AOR=2.06; 95% CI=1.54, 2.74) than it was among the heterosexual reference group. This higher risk was largely accounted for by sexual orientation minorities’ greater exposure to violence, exposure to more potentially traumatic events, and earlier age of trauma exposure.
Conclusions. Profound sexual orientation disparities exist in risk of PTSD and in violence exposure, beginning in childhood. Our findings suggest there is an urgent need for public health interventions aimed at preventing violence against individuals with minority sexual orientations and providing follow-up care to cope with the sequelae of violent victimization.
Keywords: epidemiology, injury/emergency care/violence, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, mental health, surveys.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 17 April 2010 15:14|