Australia: New research reveals how the marriage equality debate damaged LGBT Australians' mental health

Although Australia has now achieved marriage equality, the topics of sexuality and gender identity continue to spark heated – and often discriminatory – public debates.

Most recently, the issues of religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws, the Safe Schools program, and gay conversion therapy have dominated public and political discourse.

New research has suggested that such divisive debates have the potential to harm the mental health of LGBT people. These findings come from our nationwide study conducted during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017.

Mental health and discrimination

The mental health of LGBT people is among the poorest in Australia. According to the most recent estimates, LGBT Australians are more likely than non-LGBT Australians to be diagnosed with a mental disorder, attempt suicide and commit acts of self-harm in their lifetimes. The most common explanation for this is related to their frequent experiences with prejudice and discrimination.

During the postal survey, many mental health organisations and marriage equality advocates publicly argued against a national vote on same-sex marriage. They often cited previous international research that showed marriage equality debates are a health risk for the LGBT community.

To test if this would also be the case in Australia, we asked 1,305 same-sex-attracted people from across Australia to report how often they were exposed to messages from each side of the marriage debate, as well as their current levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

Read more via the Conversation