Université de Montréal

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the inequalities their community faces, including the precarious state of their mental health.

As they would be more likely to live alone than heterosexual people, they would also be more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, self-harm and substance abuse. But there is also a positive side: LGBTQ+ people would actually be in a better position than most to get help from their community.

Indeed, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal suggests that social support between members of the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes called “chosen families”, could help them better cope with stress and crises.

In an online survey, researchers looked at the mental health and social support of just over 2,900 heterosexual cisgender and sexual diversity people during the first three months of the COVID crisis. -19 in Quebec in 2020.

Published in the journal LGBT Health, the results show that LGBTQ+ people reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety, more loneliness and more stress than heterosexual cisgender participants. Bisexual and asexual people reported the most distress.

Fortunately, there was also a nice surprise. The researchers found that social support mediated the effects of stress on depressive symptoms four times better in LGBTQ+ people than in heterosexual cisgender people.

“It really highlights the importance of support for LGBTQ+ communities,” said Robert-Paul Juster, professor of medicine at UdeM and researcher at the Institut universitaire en santé santé mentale de Montréal.

« Providing LGBTQ+ people with opportunities to come together and support each other gives them access to more resources to deal with crisis situations, » said Robert-Paul Juster, who oversaw Silke Jacmin’s work. -Park, doctoral student in clinical psychology and first author of the study.

“Even though LGBTQ+ Quebecers overall have poorer mental health, thanks to their community they seem better equipped to avoid depression in times of a pandemic, and it is through their chosen family that ‘they succeed,’ she added. “This is the kind of good news we need right now. It is a story of resilience and competence in the face of a crisis, thanks to social support.”

Silke Jacmin-Park and Robert-Paul Juster are supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec health component and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.