A new study suggests that romance protects gay and lesbian teens from mental and emotional distress.
The report, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, surveyed more than 240 LGBT teens about their romantic lives. Researchers also asked how their relationships affected the subjects’ mental health.
Romance—defined as a “an ongoing relationship with a lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, or someone a person feels very close to”—was linked to staving off psychological distress: Gay and lesbian teens were 17% less distressed when in a romantic relationship, a correlation that was even stronger for black and Latinx youth. Bisexual youth, however, reported being 19% more distressed while dating. (Researchers admitted they didn’t survey enough transgender youth to reach a viable conclusion.)
“The person [these participants] were dating was the first person they would go to when they had news to celebrate, but also the first person they would go to commiserate or seek support if something awful happened,” lead author Brian Mustanski told The Washington Post. “They helped navigate issues with coming out or challenges they were having in the family about those relationships.”