Home » News » Relationships » Sexuality » Sexual Identity Change in Early Adulthood Tied to Depression
Sexual Identity Change in Early Adulthood Tied to Depression

Sexual Identity Change in Early Adulthood Tied to Depression

New research suggests a change in sexual identity toward same-sex attraction in early adulthood is often associated with symptoms of depression.

Using information obtained in a national survey, sociologists from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) discovered that these young adults reported more symptoms of depression than those whose sexual orientations did not change or changed in the opposite direction.

The study is found in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviors.

Researchers found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who initially identified as heterosexual or who had not reported same-sex romantic attraction or relationships were more likely to experience depressive symptoms than others.

This includes heterosexual, bisexual, gay, and lesbian individuals who reported stable sexual identities throughout the survey period, as well as people whose identities changed from gay, lesbian, or bisexual to heterosexual or from gay or lesbian to bisexual.

The survey results suggest that a sexual identity change toward same-sex attraction may continue to be a stressful life event despite American society’s increasing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, said study author Dr. Bethany Everett, an assistant professor of sociology at UIC.

“This study highlights the need for social support during periods of sexual identity transition toward same-sex attraction, not just for adolescents, but also for young adults,” said Everett. “Supporting people during this time-period may be critical for improving their mental health.”

Researchers assessed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, also known as Add Health. The study included over 11,200 respondents who were interviewed in both the third (2001-2002) and fourth (2008-2009) waves of the survey about topics including their depressive symptoms. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 26 in wave three and 25 to 33 in wave four.

Everett said future research should continue to investigate the factors that contribute to the link between sexual identity change and symptoms of depression.

“It may be that changes to bisexual, gay, or lesbian identities expose young adults to new sources of LGBT-related discrimination,” she said. “Additionally, there is a certain amount of stigma attached to sexual fluidity itself that may impact mental health during this developmental period.”

Source: American Sociological Association

Sexual Identity Change in Early Adulthood Tied to Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Sexual Identity Change in Early Adulthood Tied to Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.