Bisexual, transgender adults nearly twice as likely to experience loneliness: CDC

Bisexual and transgender adults were more likely to report feeling stressed.

June 20, 2024, 1:20 PM

Bisexual and transgender adults are more likely to face loneliness than straight and cisgender adults, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Thursday.

Researchers looked at data from the 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System—which collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access—and examined links between loneliness and lack of social and emotional support and mental health variables.

Loneliness was highest among participants who identified as bisexual at 56.7% or transgender, which fell between 56.4% and 63.9% for transgender males, transgender females and transgender non-conforming.

Participants who identified as gay or lesbian also had high shares of loneliness at 41.2% and 44.8%, respectively.

Comparatively, those who identified as straight or cisgender had lower shares of loneliness at 30.3% and 32.1%, respectively, making bisexual and transgender individuals nearly twice as likely to face loneliness, according to the report.

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"We know that people that are part of the LGBTQ+ community often face isolation but this study is important in that it highlighted the degree that they are isolated compared to people not part of that community," Dr. Adjoa Smalls-Mantey, a New York-based psychiatrist, told ABC News.

Results showed that members of the LGBTQ+ community were more likely to report stress, frequent mental distress and a history of depression.

More than one-third of bisexual adults -- 34.3% -- reported feelings of stress compared to 12.6% of straight adults. Similarly, up to 37.8% of transgender adults reported feelings of stress while just 13.9% of cisgender adults reported the same.

More than half of bisexual adults and transgender adults -- 54.4% and up to 67.2%, respectively -- reported a history of depression. However, just 19.4% of straight adults and 21.4% of cisgender adults reported the same.

Smalls-Mantey said the results of the study did not surprise her because many LGBTQ+ patients she's seen have discussed feeling lonely and isolated or facing rejection.

"They [often] don't feel comfortable coming out to people that are closest to them and they may hide away, not share that part of themselves, not engaged with people that they used to. So sometimes it can be self-imposed," she said.

Past research has shown loneliness and isolation can lead to poor health outcomes and put people at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, social isolation can raise the risk of premature death from all causes including from obesity, smoking and physical inactivity,

The study had limitations, including data only coming from 26 states, which may make results generalizable not the entire U.S. adult population. However, the authors said addressing the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals should include services that focus on loneliness and the lack of social and emotional support.

"Providing access to health services that are affirming for sexual and gender minority groups and collecting data to address health inequities might help improve the delivery of culturally competent care," the authors wrote.

Dr. Judith Joseph, a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at NYU Health, told ABC News that she encourages LGBTQ+ individuals to connect with people outside of the home if they don't find the support they need.

"So that could be the person at the store if you go to buy something, rather than just saying. 'Oh, thank you and have a great day,' ask that store clerk, 'So, how's your day going?'" she said. "You can start a conversation with the barista at the coffee shop. These small interactions really help a lot of my clients who have cut off people because they were not accepted by their parents."

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