New research shows gay, lesbian, bisexual Kiwis more than twice as likely to have mental illness, persisting into adulthood

New research shows that gay, lesbian and bisexual New Zealanders are more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

The study is the first to show these issues persist far past the "coming out" or teenage stage and into adulthood. 

Over 17 years, 1000 people were surveyed, looking at their patterns of sexual behaviour, attraction and fantasies.

Almost twenty percent of them said they were in sexual minority groups.

"What we saw in those sexual minorities is that they had higher rates of mental disorder namely anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation," said Dr Janet Spittlehouse from the University of Otago.

Researchers say that although the connection is widely known, they are now finding the mental health issues persist over a long period of time.

"All the way through adolescence and young adulthood, when people are grappling with sexuality and coming out and all those stressful things - but these problems actually continue beyond that," Spittlehouse told Newshub.

RainbowYOUTH isn't surprised by the findings.

"The young people that come through, they're showing significant symptoms of mental health issues and the fall out from discrimination, bullying, issues with their parents or being excluded at school," RainbowYOUTH's Communications Manager Toni Duder told Newshub.

The findings are a wake-up call. Same-sex marriage may be legal in New Zealand, but widespread discrimination still exists.

"We need to confront the fact that there is still homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in our society. We can only fix that by coming together and learning from one another and being kind to each other," said Duder.

The study also found these mental health differences existed regardless of adverse childhood experiences, socioeconomic status and personality.

The Mental Health Foundation's CEO Shaun Robinson said he isn't surprised by the findings either. 

Robinson says future policy development needs to be community-led to meet the specific needs of the rainbow community, ensuring everyone can flourish and live their best possible life.