MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Anna Austin, MPH
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Several studies have examined experiences of childhood abuse among individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), but there has been relatively little research exploring experiences of other types of childhood trauma, like witnessing domestic violence between parents or growing up with a parent who is an alcoholic, among LGB individuals. We know from the study on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the greater number of childhood traumas and adversities an individual experiences, the greater the risk for poor health later in life. There have also been a number of studies that have demonstrated health disparities by sexual orientation, with LGB adults typically having worse health than heterosexual adults. We were interested in the role that multiple types of adverse childhood experiences play in the development of poor adult health outcomes among LGB individuals.
In this study, we captured 8 categories of ACEs. We captured 3 categories of childhood abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional abuse) and 5 categories of household dysfunction (adult mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence in the household; incarceration of a household member; and parental divorce or separation). LGB adults were more likely to report each of these 8 categories of ACEs than heterosexuals, with the largest differences found for sexual abuse, adult mental illness in the household, and incarceration of a household member. LGB adults were also more likely to report having experienced multiple ACEs. Forty-two percent of LGB adults compared to 24 percent of heterosexual adults reported having experienced between 3 to 8 ACEs.
We also found that LGB adults were more likely to report poor adult health like smoking, HIV risk behaviors, 14 or more days of poor physical or mental health in the past 30 days, asthma, depression, and disability than heterosexuals. However, after we accounted for the number of ACEs each individual reported, LGB adults were no longer more likely to report smoking, binge drinking, and 14 or more days of poor physical health in the past 30 days.