Sexual identity distress, social support, and the health of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth

Eric R. Wright, Brea L. Perry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Sex researchers and mental health clinicians have long recognized that the stigma surrounding homosexuality plays an important role in shaping the social psychological adjustment of gay, lesbian, and bisexual (g/l/b) people. In recent years, researchers have suggested that sexual identity- related distress may influence the physical health status of g/l/b people, primarily because of the ways these self-related feelings and beliefs impact patterns of health-related behavior. This study examines the influence of sexual identity distress and social support on g/l/b youth's drug and alcohol use, psychological distress, and risky sexual behavior. The data come from a services research demonstration program conducted at the Indiana Youth Group, Inc., a g/l/b youth development agency based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Results indicate that sexual identity distress is strongly associated with psychological distress, less frequent use of alcohol, and using fewer types of illegal drugs. Being out to more people in one's support network, however, attenuates the severity of youth's sexual identity-related distress. Youth who report more support ties to g/l/b people indicate engaging in more frequent risky sexual behavior. The implications of these findings for theories of g/l/b youth's sexual identity development are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)81-110
    Number of pages30
    JournalJournal of Homosexuality
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jul 25 2006


    • Bisexual youth
    • Gay
    • Health risk behavior
    • Internalized homophobia
    • Lesbian
    • Sexual identity distress
    • Social support

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)
    • Social Sciences(all)

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