Discrimination, Coming-Out, and Self-Esteem as Predictors of Depression and Anxiety in the Lesbian Community
Mixed findings in the research on mental health issues in the lesbian community have resulted in conflicting conclusions as to whether the prevalence rate of generalized anxiety disorders and depression in the lesbian population differs from that of non-lesbians. The variability of findings may be due to factors such as discrimination, coming-out, and self-esteem. Using the minority stress model a framework, the purpose of this quantitative survey study was to examine whether perceptions of discrimination, coming-out, and self-esteem levels predict lesbians’ anxiety and depression. Participants anonymously completed online measures of the Outness Inventory, the Schedule of Sexually Discriminatory Events, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory-II, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The snowball sample consisted of 105 self-identified lesbian women from the United States. Hierarchical regression was used to test the hypotheses. According to study results, frequency and stressfulness of sexual discrimination, coming-out, and self-esteem levels predicted depression and anxiety, with low self-esteem as the only significant predictor of depression and anxiety. The findings were only partially consistent with the minority stress model because perceived discrimination did not predict depression or anxiety. This study facilitates positive social change by pointing out and focusing on the need for mental health interventions specific to the stresses that lesbians face pertaining to low self-esteem, as that predicts their anxiety and depression.