HRC Blog

Coming Out: It Can do a Body Good

Researchers at Boston University’s School of Public Health found that the majority of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who receive support from their parents while coming out experience a decreased number of mental health and substance abuse issues.

Dr. Emily Rothman and her team surveyed 5,658 adults aged 18 – 64 and explored how the respondents experienced the coming out process particularly with regards to parental reaction. Dr. Rothman found that 75 percent of those surveyed came out to their parents at an average age of 25. Two-thirds of those whose openness was met with parental support experienced dramatically lower incidences of mental health or substance abuse trouble.

The BU researchers suggest that national academies of pediatric medicine should create and distribute guidelines encouraging doctors to provide parents with tips to support their children if they come out.

“The way that parents treat their LGB children when they come out is an important public health topic that has received too little attention to date,” Rothman said to the BU School of Public Health. “Our message is that parents should take note: The way we treat our LGB children, even from before the time they disclose their sexual orientation status, may have a long-term, significant impact on their health and ability to handle life’s challenges.”

This research echoes the core principles of Dr. Caitlyn Ryan’s Family Acceptance Project. The importance of family support was highlighted during 2011’s “Road to Equality” bus tour in panel discussions in some of the stops. “Pathways to Acceptance” panels were family oriented discussions about the difference acceptance makes in the lives of children.

Coming out and living openly aren’t something you do once, or even for one year. It’s a journey that we make every single day of our lives. The Coming Out Project helps LGBT, as well as straight-supportive people live openly and talk about their support for equality at home, at work and in their communities each and every day. Learn more about HRC's work to support individuals in the coming out process.

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