A Systematic Review of COVID-19 Risk Factors Impact on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Youth

  •  Victoria Rich    
  •  Jennifer R Pharr    
  •  Timothy Bungum    
  •  Emylia Terry    


Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) are a growing population in the U.S. and are disproportionately impacted by mental health disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increased depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues among the general population. The purpose of this review was to examine risk factors exacerbated by COVID-19 and their effects on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses) method for reporting was used to identify, analyze, and synthesize the selected literature. Thirteen studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. COVID-19 risk factors were categorized at the individual, relational, community, and societal levels. The results suggest that the following factors were associated with poorer mental health: individual factors of less education, income, and employment; concerns about COVID-19; pre-existing mental health issues and being a sexual or gender minority; and relationship factors of reduced socialization and spending more time with unsupportive family. Additionally, loss of safe spaces (school, youth organizations, etc) at the community level, social distancing policies, and a loss of access to gender-affirming care at the societal level were detrimental to mental health.  LGBTQ+ youth can benefit from resources which allow them to stay connected to peers, friends, community resources, the LGBTQ+ community, and supportive educational environments during “stay at home” orders. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened many risk factors for LGBTQ+ youth, making mental health resources vital for this group.

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