On St Valentine’s Day, Research Finds Being in Love Brings Youth Mixed Health

Feb 14 2020 Posted: 15:15 GMT

Those who have never been in love report better health
Sexual minority youth at increased risk of poor health
Responses from 15 year olds in eight European countries

 A new study, led by Dr András Költőand the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland team, based in the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, linking patterns of romantic attraction with self-rated health and health symptoms, has been published in the Journal of LGBT Health. ‘Self-reported health and patterns of romantic love in adolescents from eight European countries and regions’ is the first study to examine adolescent romantic love patterns across multiple countries, and to test whether they are related to health outcomes.

NUI Galway researchers Dr András Költő and Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn carried out the study with their colleagues from other European countries to investigate the relationship between how adolescents rated their own health and who they were in love with.

Adolescents aged 15 years from eight European countries and regions (Bulgaria, England, France, French Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, North Macedonia and Switzerland) were asked if they had ever been in love and whether they had been in love with someone of the opposite gender, the same gender, both or neither. The sample (which is nationally representative for all of these countries) comprised 13,674 young people. Adolescents who had never been in love reported the best self-rated health and fewest health symptoms such as headache, stomachache, feeling low, irritability or bad tempers, difficulties getting to sleep, nervousness and feeling dizzy.

The rates of opposite-gender love (heterosexual) were 52% in England and 82% in France. Proportion of same-gender love (lesbian/gay) were around 2% in both countries. Having been in love with others of both genders (bisexual) was marginally more frequent, with 3% in England and 2% in France. However, 40% of the English and 13% of the French adolescents reported never being love. Rates of same- and both-gender attracted adolescents were similar in the other countries, but proportion of those who reported opposite-gender love varied more widely.

Adolescents who had been in love with people of the same gender were three times more likely to report multiple symptoms and were one and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15-year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. Those who had been in love with both boys and girls (which may indicate being bisexual) were three times more likely to report multiple healthy symptoms and were three and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15 year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. These patterns persisted across the eight countries studied, even when factors such as levels of family affluence and the participants’ gender were taken into account.

Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr András Költő stated: “This study suggests that bisexual young people and adults are even more affected by poor health than their lesbian and gay peers of the same age, and all sexual minority youth are faring considerably worse than their heterosexual peers. This is likely to be connected to the discrimination, prejudice and high levels of stress many LGBTI+ (the abbreviation stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or belonging to other sexual or gender minority) young people experience in their everyday lives. We hope these findings will supplement Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy 2018-2020, the world’s first governmental strategy that aims to improve sexual and gender minority young people’s health and wellbeing.”

The data does not feature Irish youths but NUI Galway plans to present findings on Irish young people in the coming months. 

The article can be downloaded at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/lgbt.2019.0107


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