Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lim, Caroline


Sexual minority youth (SMY) are a population vulnerable to behavioral health challenges. While behavioral health disparities between SMY and heterosexual youth are well documented, less attention has been given to how such disparities vary geographically. The aim of this study is to begin to fill this gap by using a national dataset to examine how behavioral health disparities between SMY and heterosexual youth vary by geography. Understanding how SMY’s experiences vary by location will allow social workers to better allocate resources. Secondary data analysis of cross-sectional data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study was conducted to examine the relationship between sexual identity, mental and behavioral health outcomes, and geographic region among youth. The survey data, collected between 2018 and 2019, comes from youth ages 14-17 (N=8,886). Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analysis was conducted. Results showed SMY were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma, and to rate their mental health as worse compared to a year ago than non-SMY. SMY were also significantly more likely struggle with substance use than non-SMY. Geographic region had no relationship with the mental health outcomes of youth who identified as a sexual minority, and little relationship with their behavioral health outcomes. Future research with more precise measures of geographic factors may better capture the influence of geographic location on SMY’s mental and behavioral health outcomes.

Included in

Social Work Commons