There is a growing body of evidence, both international and Australian, to suggest that non-heterosexual people experience anxiety and depression at higher rates than their heterosexual peers and are at greater risk of suicide and self-harm. Yet, there has been little recognition of the implications of this for policy and practice. Contested debates on the influence of genes on sexual orientation aside, non-heterosexual people are not physiologically different from their heterosexual peers to all intents and purposes. However, they are likely to have different life experiences that contribute to at least two areas of particular need in relation to mental health and depression: managing the effects of homophobia and its consequences
on a daily basis through the life course; and gaining access to mental health services that are able to respond to their needs in socially and culturally competent ways. The invisibility of these issues prompted the partnership between beyondblue and the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University to undertake a systematic and targeted international literature review of the evidence base on depression and related issues among non-heterosexual people, published between the years 2000 and 2008. In addition, data from existing Australian studies undertaken by ARCSHS was analysed specifically to contribute to this paper. Difficulties were encountered in reviewing and exploring similarities and differences between empirical studies of non-heterosexual groups because of complex ways of measuring sexual orientation. Similar difficulties were encountered in an analysis of the varying ways of defining depression, its diverse forms and the different tools used to measure it. These are fully discussed in the primary report and decisions about terminology for this document have been made.