Straight students who do not conform to societal gender norms are just as likely to be depressed as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transexual youths who also do not conform to the norms, according to a study conducted at the College of Human Ecology’s Sex and Gender Laboratory.
The study pointed to nonconformity as having a greater impact than sexual orientation on students’ psychological well-being — debunking the long-standing belief that sexual orientation is the primary cause of unhappiness among LGBT youth, according to Gerulf Rieger, a post-doctoral associate in the Sex and Gender Lab and one of the authors of the report.
“The important part of this study is that the findings are also true for straight people,” Rieger said.
Although the study found a correlation between sexual orientation and unhappiness, Rieger said that when sexuality was compared alongside nonconformity, it became apparent that it was the latter that actually corresponded to an individual’s well-being.
“In no analysis was sexual orientation [directly] related to a measure of well-being,” according to the report.
The survey, administered in 2008 to 230 female and 245 male seniors from a high school in upstate New York, posed questions to determine students’ sexual orientation, evaluate their psychological health and measure how closely they conform to societal gender norms.
Those surveyed were asked to rate how closely their interests matched certain gendered statements, such as “working on cars” or “going clothes shopping,” according to the study.
“I think the paramount thing is that LGBTQ people feel comfortable in their community,” Dean Iwaoka ’13, LGBTQ representative to the Student Assembly, said, commenting on the lab’s findings. “If science is going to help that and bring about understanding to the community, then it is a positive influence.”