The Roles of Discrimination and Social Support in the Associations Between Outness and Mental Health Outcomes Among Sexual Minorities

Cindy J. Chang, John K. Kellerman, Kara Binder Fehling, Brian A. Feinstein, Edward A. Selby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Compared to heterosexual individuals, sexual minorities exhibit elevated risk for depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD). One psychosocial factor relevant to sexual minority mental health is outness, or the degree to which an individual discloses or conceals their sexual orientation. Previous findings are mixed regarding whether outness is associated with better or worse mental health, likely because outness can have positive consequences (e.g., social support) and negative consequences (e.g., discrimination). Support exists for both mechanisms, but previous studies have not simultaneously considered how outness may be related to mental health outcomes in different ways through social support versus discrimination. The present study examined: (a) the association between outness and depressive symptoms, (b) the association between outness and BPD symptoms, and (c) the indirect effects of outness on depressive/BPD symptoms through social support and discrimination. A total of 256 sexual minority participants completed an online or in-person survey. Greater outness was associated with lower depressive symptoms and BPD symptoms. There was an indirect effect of outness on depressive symptoms through social support, with greater outness being associated with greater social support and, in turn, lower depressive symptoms. Outness had an indirect effect on BPD symptoms through both social support and discrimination. Greater outness was associated with both greater social support and discrimination, with greater social support being associated with lower BPD symptoms, and greater discrimination with greater BPD symptoms. Outness may contribute to mental health through multiple mechanisms, serving as either a risk or protective factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-616
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Bpd
  • Depression
  • Lgbt
  • Outness
  • Sexual minority


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