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Mental health studies rarely report LGBT status of participants

A lack of reporting sexual orientation and transgender identity could make it difficult to judge whether mental health treatments work for LGBT patients.

By Stephen Feller
Mental health studies rarely report LGBT status of participants
A lack of information on LGBT participants in clinical trials for depression and anxiety treatments may be preventing doctors from properly assessing the potential efficacy of treatments, say researchers at Marquette University and the University of California San Francisco. Photo by create jobs 51/Shutterstock

SAN FRANCISCO, June 20 (UPI) -- Nearly no studies on clinical trials for depression and anxiety treatments include information on the sexual orientation or transgender identity of participants, researchers at two universities report.

Researchers at Marquette University and the University of California San Francisco say the lack of information on LGBT trial participants, or whether any of them identify as transgender, could be clouding the efficacy of treatment for depression and anxiety.

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Understanding whether methods of care work for what is already an underserved population is important to providing proper healthcare, the researchers say.

"While this finding is disappointing, it reflects a larger problem in the behavioral sciences, and we hope the results of our systematic review will result in more researchers querying and reporting LGBT identities in their research," Dr. Annesa Flentje, an assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco, said in a press release. "We also hope that LGBT patients will feel empowered to ask if the treatment they are getting has been shown to work for people in their community, as this is important in the era of precision medicine."

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For the study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers reviewed parts of 2,400 academic articles on clinical trials published in 2004, 2009 and 2014, identifying 232 that reported the results of randomized clinical trials.

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The trials included 52,769 participants -- with 93 studies conducted in the United States and 43 funded by the National Institutes of Health -- but just one study reported sexual orientation and none of the studies included nonbinary gender identities.

This raises researchers' concerns, they say, because depression and anxiety are treated widely among people in the LGBT community but there is little published evidence such treatment is effective.

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"This is significant for mental health professionals and how they treat members of the LGBT community," Dr. Nicholas Heck, an assistant professor of psychology at Marquette University, said in a press release. "Omission of these data poses significant challenges for determining whether our existing interventions are effective for LGBT people. Further, that data could lead the field to identify treatments that may require modification to address the unique needs of this population."

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