Acne, Sexual Orientation, and Mental Health Among Young Adults in the United States: A Population-Based, Cross-Sectional Study

Sexual minorities who also have acne are more likely to have suicidal ideations, according to new research published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology.

It’s already well known sexual minorities are more likely than heterosexuals to have depression or suicidal thoughts.

Paired with existing data showing physical disfigurement from acne can also lead to depression or suicidal thoughts, lead author Matthew Mansh, M.D., a medical resident in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Dermatology, hypothesized sexual minorities with acne would be an extremely at-risk population for developing mental health issues.

The study analyzed data from 4,094 heterosexuals and 564 individuals of a sexual minority, all from the United States and between the ages of 18 and 28, via responses to Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent to Adult Health.

Mansh and his colleagues were surprised by the results: the rate of suicidal ideation among sexual minorities with acne was 35.4 percent, compared to 15.3 percent among sexual minorities without acne. This is in stark contrast to their heterosexual counterparts with and without acne, whose rate of suicidal ideation was just 7.9 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.

“The results highlight the mental health issues with many patients with acne and adding in sexual orientation can be a quick predictor of really high risk patients,” Mansh said.

Mansh emphasized the importance of physicians having access to information about their patients, especially gender identities and sexual orientations, because it allows them to screen for high risk patients and give appropriate treatment referrals.

“Knowing more about your patients helps you treat them on a more individual basis and know how their disease can affect their overall life.”