Comparing the Impact of COVID-19-Related Social Distancing on Mood and Psychiatric Indicators in Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) and Non-SGM Individuals

Citation:

Rodriguez-Seijas C, Fields EC, Bottary R, Kark SM, Goldstein MR, Kensinger EA, Payne JD, Cunningham TJ. Comparing the Impact of COVID-19-Related Social Distancing on Mood and Psychiatric Indicators in Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) and Non-SGM Individuals. Front Psychiatry. 2020;11 :590318.

Date Published:

2020

Abstract:

Empirical evidence demonstrates mental health disparities between sexual and gender minority individuals (SGM) compared with cisgender heterosexual individuals. SGM individuals report elevated rates of emotional distress, symptoms related to mood and anxiety disorders, self-harm, and suicidal ideation and behavior. Social support is inversely related to psychiatric symptoms, regardless of SGM status. The COVID-19 pandemic-with its associated limited social interactions-represents an unprecedented period of acute distress with potential reductions in accessibility of social support, which might be of particular concern for SGM individuals' mental well-being. In the present study, we explored the extent to which potential changes in mental health outcomes (depressive symptoms, worry, perceived stress, positive and negative affect) throughout the duration of the pandemic were related to differences in perceptions of social support and engagement in virtual social activity, as a function of SGM status. Utilizing a large sample of US adults (N = 1,014; 18% reported SGM status), we assessed psychiatric symptoms, perceptions of social isolation, and amount of time spent socializing virtually at 3 time windows during the pandemic (between March 21 and May 21). Although SGM individuals reported greater levels of depression compared with non-SGM individuals at all 3 time points, there was no interaction between time and SGM status. Across all participants, mental health outcomes improved across time. Perceived social isolation was associated with poorer mental health outcomes. Further, time spent engaging in virtual socialization was associated with reduced depression, but only for those in self-reported quarantine. We discuss these results in terms of the nature of our sample and its impact on the generalizability of these findings to other SGM samples as well as directions for future research aimed at understanding potential health disparities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.