Trump’s miserable presidency coincided with extreme mental distress for LGBTQ folks, says study

Trump’s miserable presidency coincided with extreme mental distress for LGBTQ folks, says study

Donald Trump’s presidency is marked by so, so many failures, it’s hard to know where to start. He stirred division, spread hate, and made life markedly worse for countless vulnerable, marginalized folks. It wouldn’t be hard, for example, to say they felt depressed or betrayed when watching election results roll in on that historic night in 2016, or to find folks who felt increased anxiety leading up to the 2020 election. 

According to a new study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, however, LGBTQ+ people reported particularly intense mental distress during the Trump years when compared to cisgender, heterosexual respondents, as highlighted by LGBTQ+ outlet them. Given that Trump and his administration pushed some major anti-trans goals, these results are not exactly surprising, but they’re certainly still important. 

Before we dig into the results, it’s important to go over some basics and acknowledge the limitations of the data. The survey data, which was collected as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s yearly Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, included responses from more than 1 million American adults between the years 2014 and early 2020. Because the data is self-reported (compared to, say, clinical data), it’s inherently not as reliable. It also looks at results on the population level, as opposed to tracking a specific set of respondents over time. The study was published online on June 23, 2021. 

When completing the survey, respondents would report the number of days in the preceding months in which they would categorize their mental health as “not good.” This could include, for example, depression or stress. Folks who said they had “not good” mental health for all 30 days of the month would be categorized as having “extreme mental distress.”

So, what did we learn? As a starting point, even before Trump became president, LGBTQ+ folks were more likely to report feeling extreme mental distress. However, from the time Trump became a significant contender for the presidency, the disparity only increased. Interestingly, between the years 2014 and 2019, the level of distress reported by non-LGBTQ+ folks remained about the same (about 5%), while the percentage rose from 8% to 12% for LGBTQ respondents.

Interestingly, increases were higher for LGBTQ+ folks living in states where Trump won compared to those who lived in states where Hillary Clinton won. 

“I was curious to know whether the average mental health among LGBT people worsened during the Trump presidency, as he and his administration were perceived as anti-LGBT,” study author Masanori Kuroki told PsyPost in an interview. Unsurprisingly, it did. Even still, this research cannot prove causation

“Nuance is required when interpreting the results,” Koroki, an associate professor of economics at Arkansas Tech Univesity, wrote in the study, stressing that the findings cannot be considered “definitive proof” that Trump was the cause. The researcher wrote in part, “Nonetheless, the findings provide important information — that mental health among LGBT people has been deteriorating since early 2016 — to policymakers and LGBT advocates.”

As Daily Kos has covered, Trump and his lackeys pushed no shortage of anti-trans efforts, including trying to bar openly trans folks from serving in the military, rescinding guidance meant to protect trans youth in school, and trying to define gender on an (incorrect) biological basis.

Even since Trump has left office and hidden in relative oblivion, we’ve seen countless state Republicans pop up with anti-trans legislation, targeting trans youth in sports, access to gender-affirming, age-appropriate gender-affirming medical care, and trying to make it essentially impossible for trans adults to update their birth certificates. And of course, for people who live with multiple marginalized identities—queer sex workers or trans people of color, for example—the stakes are all the higher and scarier. 

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