A Mailman School of Public Health study examining the effects of institutional discrimination on the psychiatric health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals found an increase in psychiatric disorders among the LGB population living in US states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage. The study is published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Participants were initially interviewed during 2001 – 2002 (Wave 1) and again during the period 2004-2005 (Wave 2), at which time participants’ sexual orientation was assessed. During the 2004 election and soon after, 14 states approved constitutional amendments restricting marriage to unions between heterosexual couples. This gave the opportunity to see what effect, if any, this legislation had on the individuals potentially most affected by it.

The study found that, among LGB study participants living in these states, the prevalence of mood disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorders increased significantly between Wave 1 to Wave 2. There was also an increase found among the heterosexual participants but to a lesser degree.

“Before this study, little was known about the impact of institutional discrimination toward lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals in our society,” said Dr. Deborah Hasin, senior author of the study. “The study highlights the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and well-being of LGB individuals.”