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Sexual Orientation, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Comorbid DSM-5 Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

Article Abstract

Objective: To assess the relationships between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and comorbid Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) substance use and mental health disorders across 5 sexual orientation subgroups: lesbian/gay, bisexual, unsure, discordant heterosexual (ie, heterosexual-identified with same-sex attraction or behavior), and concordant heterosexual.

Methods: Data were from the 2012−2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of non-institutionalized US adults. Data were collected in households via structured diagnostic face-to-face interviews; the overall response rate was 60.1%. The sample included 36,309 US adults aged 18 years and older.

Results: Sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual), especially bisexual women, reported the highest prevalence of ACEs and comorbid substance use and mental health disorders. Approximately 43.8% of bisexual women reported 4 or more ACEs, and 38.0% of bisexual women reported comorbid substance use and mental health disorders. Multivariable regression analyses indicated a curvilinear relationship between ACEs and comorbid substance use and mental health disorders, and sexual minorities consistently had a higher ACE mean than concordant heterosexual respondents. The majority of sexual minorities with high levels of ACEs had comorbid substance use and mental health disorders.

Conclusions: Sexual minorities are exposed to more ACEs than their heterosexual counterparts in the US. We found evidence that US sexual minorities are at higher risk of comorbid substance use and mental health disorders. These findings reinforce the importance of identifying exposure to ACEs and developing trauma-informed interventions to treat comorbidities in those exposed to multiple ACEs, especially sexual minorities.’ ‹

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(6):20m13291

Volume: 81

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