Exploring Trauma and PTSD

Study finds higher rates in the LGBTQ community

People in the LGBTQ community suffer more trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than heterosexuals in the general population, according to new research by a Case Western Reserve undergraduate.

The study is by Margarid Turnamian, a junior majoring in psychology. It stands out for both the nature of the undertaking and the subject, said Amy Przeworski, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, who served as the student's adviser and mentor.

The research involved a representative sampling and survey of 367 adults between ages 18 and 72, most of whom did not experience or witness trauma.

The findings showed that people in the LGBTQ community experienced nearly double the number of PTSD symptoms as their heterosexual counterparts.

They also revealed that people in gender minorities (transgender or gender nonconforming) reported more traumas than people who are cisgender (their identity corresponds with their birth sex).

In contrast, people in sexual minorities (gay or lesbian) experienced about the same number of traumas as heterosexuals—but more PTSD symptoms, which Turnamian said was a major finding.

"Sexual minorities had higher [levels of PTSD symptoms] than straight individuals, regardless of whether they have experienced trauma," Turnamian said. "This is important because it leads us to see that trauma may not be telling the entire story of why LGBTQ individuals have higher PTSD symptoms." She said it's possible that factors including discrimination may contribute to the higher levels of PTSD.

Przeworski credited Turnamian with identifying the idea during a research methods course as a sophomore and then pursuing it the following year for her capstone project. "Margarid is exceptional for conducting an independent research study in psychology so early in her undergraduate career," Przeworski said.

Turnamian received a research scholarship from CWRU's SAGES program and this school year won a first-place award for social-sciences research in the university's SOURCE (Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) Intersections poster competition.

—Colin McEwen