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Individuals who belong to a sexual minority are at greater risk of adverse health and social outcomes. These effects are observed during adolescence when many mental health problems, such as depression, first emerge. Here, we used a network analytic approach to better understand the role that sexual minority status plays in the association between depression, interpersonal difficulties and substance use in a large sample of mid-adolescents. In doing so, we used data from 8017 fourteen year olds from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study, of which 490 self-identified as belonging to a sexual minority. We found that sexual minority status was highly central in the network and connected to multiple adverse outcomes, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. The largest single association was between sexual minority status and depression, and this link mediated multiple negative associations with being in a sexual minority. The shortest path to drinking, poor social support and closeness with parents and victimization occurred via depression. The shortest path to smoking and drug use occurred via conduct problems. We also identified three distinct profiles of adverse outcomes among those belonging to a sexual minority, highlighting the heterogeneous nature of this group.

Original publication




Journal article


Royal Society Open Science


The Royal Society

Publication Date