Home > Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland 2024. The National Study on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of the LGBTQI+ Communities in Ireland.

Higgins, Agnes and Downes, Carmel and O’Sullivan, Karin and DeVries, Jan and Molloy, Renee and Monahan, Mark and Keogh, Brian and Doyle, Louise and Begley, Thelma and Corcoran, Paul (2024) Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland 2024. The National Study on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of the LGBTQI+ Communities in Ireland. Dublin: Belong To – LGBTQ+ Youth Ireland.

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Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland is a research project that aimed to examine the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQI+ people in the Republic of Ireland and investigated public attitudes towards LGBTQI+ people. In 2016, the first ever comprehensive report on the mental health of Ireland’s LGBTQI+ community as well as attitudes of the general public towards LGBTI+ people was conducted by Trinity College Dublin and published in association with Belong To and GLEN. That report, ‘LGBTIreland’ was based on research conducted by a team at Trinity. Now, eight years on, the new report – ‘Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland’ – involving over 2,800 LGBTQI+ people, builds on the findings from that initial report and includes a comparative analysis. Key findings from the new study indicate that mental health and wellbeing have declined amongst the LGBTQI+ population since 2016, with significant challenges experienced by younger age groups and the transgender and gender non-conforming communities.  

Significantly, since the 2016 LGBTIreland study there has been a: 

  • 17% Increase in symptoms of severe/extremely severe symptoms of depression
  • 30% Increase in symptoms of severe/extremely severe symptoms of anxiety
  • 33% Increase in symptoms of severe/extremely severe symptoms of stress

P.95 In relation to alcohol use, while 22% of participants never drank, 42% of participants who drank had AUDIT scores of 8 or more which may indicate hazardous and harmful alcohol use, as well as possible alcohol dependence. A similar proportion was reported in the LGBTIreland study, with comparative analysis showing that there was no significant change. Cisgender and gay men scored the highest on the AUDIT screening tool of all the gender and sexual minority subgroups. Problematic alcohol use is common among gay and bisexual men as shown in a recent Irish study wherein as many as 27% of gay and bisexual men screened positive for alcohol use disorder (Witzel et al. 2022), and another study wherein 31% of men who had sex with men (MSM) screened positive, with bisexual men more likely to screen positive compared to gay men (Daly et al. 2021). Unlike this study, both studies used CAGE-4 as a screening tool, therefore while the prevalence rates are not directly comparable, together the findings highlight gay and bisexual men in particular as requiring targeted interventions.

Just over half of participants in this study reported ever having taken drugs, other than those required for medical purposes (54%). The 2019–20 Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey reported a lower prevalence of drug use (23%) (Mongan et al. 2021), however, this was for illegal drug use, whereas our Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland study asked about non-medical drug use, which would include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in addition to illegal drugs. Like the European Web Survey on Drugs Irish Findings and the 2019-2020 Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey 2019-2020 (Mongan et al. 2021), cannabis was the drug most commonly used in the last year, while cocaine featured in the top three in both our study and the two aforementioned studies. Cocaine use in Ireland has increased rapidly over the last number of years, with users perceiving that it is very easy to access (Mongan et al. 2021) and more recent data suggesting that it is now the most common problem drug in Ireland (O’Neill et al. 2023). Young people and LGBTQI+ people have been recognised as groups that may be more likely to use illegal drugs and/or to binge drink and as such have been identified for targeted interventions by the drug and alcohol reduction policy in Ireland (Department of Health, 2017). These interventions are centred on increased awareness of the harmful effect of drug and alcohol use through education and by improving access to specialist services for LGBTQI+ groups in particular. However, availability of data presents a challenge in terms of assessing the impact of some these initiatives (Bruton et al. 2021).

P.105 Drug use: Participants were asked if they had ever taken drugs, other than those required for medical reasons, with 54% indicating that they had (n=1518). Of those who had taken drugs, just over two-fifths had taken drugs more than one year ago (43.5%, n=661), a quarter had taken them within the last year (24.9%, n=378), and 31.6% had taken them within the last month (n=479). Substantially more young people aged 19-25 had taken drugs compared to those aged 14-18 (61.2% vs. 19.7%). DAST-10 was administered to those who had taken drugs within the previous year. Of these, 1.7% scored as being at no risk. The majority scored as being at low risk (59.4%), with the suggested action being to monitor and re-assess at a later date. Nearly one third (30.1%) scored at a moderate level, with further investigation recommended at this level. Approximately one tenth (8.9%) scored at a substantial/severe level, with intensive assessment the recommended course of action at these levels (report table 5.7). The mean score on the DAST-10 was 2.57 (SD=1.9, N=805, Median=2). 

Of those who had taken drugs within the last year (N=857), the three drug types used most often were: 1) hashish/marijuana/cannabis; 2) codeine-based drugs (e.g. oxycodone, nurofen plus, solpadine); and 3) cocaine, with the majority of those who took the first two doing so in the past month. The top three reasons for taking drugs were: 1) To get high/for fun/for pleasure; 2) To reduce stress/ relax; and 3) To socialize, which indicates that most people were using them for recreational purposes. However, as report table 5.8 shows, a number of responses were also for reasons relating to treating depression, anxiety, stress and sleep disturbance. In relation to ‘other’ reasons not on the list, these included because a partner or friends/acquaintances were doing it, to access insights/learn/selfexplore, to meditate, to treat ADHD, to gain confidence, to overcome fears of flying, in the context of a party/festival, as part of routine or to satisfy craving, to hurt oneself, to numb some feeling, to feel something, to stay drinking longer, to dance and to open up to another person.

The top three settings in which drugs were used were: 1) At home; 2) In a club/ pub; and 3) At a concert/music festival. In terms of ‘other’ settings not covered by the list, these included a friend’s house, house party, on holiday, camping, at pride, at a wedding celebration, at a birthday party and at a retreat (report table 5.9).

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