Donald Trump and Mike Pence at a Tennessee “MAGA” rally (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)
Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency has been linked to a surge in “extreme mental distress” among America’s LGBT+ community.
A report for the December issue of the journal Economics and Human Biology found that “extreme mental distress” – categorised as 30 days or more of distress – rose by four per cent from 2015 to Trump’s final year as US president, according to NBC News.
The gap between LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ Americans also widened in that time frame, going from 1.8 per cent 2014 to 6.9 per cent in 2020. Even seemingly small increases in extreme distress are important, the study notes, because such distress is uncommon among the wider population.
“A clear association exists between the 2016 election and the changeover to a decisively anti-LGBT administration and the worsening mental health of sexual and gender minority (SGM) adults, although a completely causal relationship cannot be fully established,” said Masanori Kuroki, an associate economic professor at Arkansas Tech University.
Donald Trump’s presidency was marked by frequent and persistent attacks on LGBT+ rights and protections, including banning trans people from the military, withdrawing Title IX protections for trans students and reversing plans to count LGBT+ people on the census.
His administration also fought to deny US citizenship to the children of same-sex parents, gave federal adoption agencies freedom to reject LGBT+ couples, and actively covered up examples of homophobic torture and persecution in global human rights reports.
Tragically this culminated with the final full year of his presidency being named the deadliest for transgender murders since records began.
Kuroki’s study cites Trump’s many attacks on LGBT+ legislation, saying the possibility of removing recently gained rights and protections “might be more damaging to LGBT+ people’s mental well-being than simply not having equal rights in the first place”.
He concluded that “the findings do suggest that the Biden administration may have inherited higher rates of mental distress among LGBT+ people” than it would “if Donald Trump had not run and won the 2016 election”.
Young people are listening. When their message is discriminatory and hateful, that does have an impact.
His theory is borne out in corresponding research by the Trevor Project, an LGBT+ youth crisis organisation, which found a staggering 94 percent of LGBT+ young people said recent politics negatively affected their mental health.
“When there have been public policy decisions, we hear about that on our crisis line,” Amit Paley, the project’s CEO, told NBC News. “Young people are listening. When their message is discriminatory and hateful, that does have an impact.”
Kuroki’s study is also supported by a second study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which highlighted a similar increase in LGBT+ Americans reporting frequent mental distress to the national behavioural risk factor survey.
That study, whose findings were published this year in the journal LGBT Health, reported LGBT+ mental distress rising from 15.4 per cent to 21.5 per cent from 2015 to 2018.
Like Kuroki, the study’s lead author professor Adrienne Grzenda notes that a definitive causal link cannot be drawn between Donald Trump’s administration and the decline in LGBT+ mental health with existing data, though both studies controlled for likely competing factors.