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Studies show disorders rise from discriminatory policies
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Studies show disorders rise from discriminatory policies

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

A Mailman School of Public Health study examining the effects of institutional discrimination on the psychiatric health of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual individuals found an increase in psychiatric disorders among the LGB population living in states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage.

The study, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, is available online.

The data, collected from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), came from participants who were initially interviewed during 2000-2001 (Wave 1), and again in 2004-2005 (Wave 2), where participants' sexual orientation was assessed.

Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and senior author of the study, analyzed the data with colleagues at the NYS Psychiatric Institute and Harvard University.

"To address the impact of institutional discrimination on mental health, we examined whether LGB individuals living in states that instituted constitutional amendments banning Gay marriage via the 2004-2005 elections evidenced increased rates of psychiatric disorders between Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the survey," said the authors.

According to the data experts, 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, with the greatest increase - more than 200% - in generalized anxiety disorder. The prevalence of any psychiatric disorder also increased slightly among heterosexual respondents, but to a much lesser extent than their LGB counterparts.

"Before this study, little was known about the impact of institutional discrimination towards LGB individuals," said Dr. Hasin. "The study highlights the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and wellbeing of LGB individuals."

Institutional discrimination is characterized by societal-level conditions that limit the opportunities and access to resource by socially disadvantaged people.

The authors note that during and soon after the 2004 election, 14 states approved constitutional amendments restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

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