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The long-term mental health risk associated with non-heterosexual orientation

  • R. A. Burns (a1), P. Butterworth (a1) (a2) (a3) and A. F. Jorm (a2)

Findings that describe the mental health risk associated with non-heterosexual orientation in young and middle-aged adults are from cross-sectional designs or fail to discriminate homosexual and bisexual orientations. This study examines the mental health risk of homosexual and bisexual orientation over an 8-year period.


Participants were from the age-cohort study, the Personality and Total Health Through Life Project, were observed twice every 4 years, and aged 20–24 (n = 2353) and 40–44 (n = 2499) at baseline.


Homosexual orientation was unrelated to long-term depression risk. Risk for anxiety and depression associated with homosexual and bisexual orientations, respectively, were attenuated in fully-adjusted models. Bisexual orientation risk associated with anxiety was partially attenuated in fully-adjusted models.


Non-heterosexual orientation was not a major risk factor for long-term mental health outcomes. Instead, those with a non-heterosexual orientation were more likely to experience other mental health risk factors, which explain most of the risk observed amongst those with a non-heterosexual orientation.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr R. A. Burns, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Building 54, Mills Road, Acton ACT 2601, Australia. (Email:
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Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
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