Shariell Crosby, Research staff
Traumatic Experiences, Substance Use, Mental Health, Sexual and Gender Minority, Assigned Female at Birth
Lifetime prevalence of traumatic experiences for adults has been documented to be around 80 % in past research studies (Roberts et al., 2010). Traumatic event exposure (TEE) is a major public health concern as such experiences are associated with negative mental health outcomes (depression and anxiety) and substance use (alcohol and marijuana) (Overstreet et al., 2017). Additionally, LGBT individuals are more likely to experience trauma than their heterosexual counterparts (Roberts et al., 2010). Given the serious consequences of TEE and the elevated risk for sexual and gender minorities, it is necessary to assess how well lifetime experiences of traumatic events predict mental health outcomes and substance use in such a vulnerable population. This study examined the prevalence of lifetime traumatic events experienced by the FAB 400 sample—an ongoing longitudinal study. Four hundred eighty-eight participants completed a survey that assessed demographic characteristics, minority stressors, relationship dynamics, IPV, substance use, and mental and physical health outcomes. TEE was captured using a modified traumatic events list from the PTSD module of the Computerized Diagnostic Interview for DSM-IV (CDIS). Alcohol and Marijuana use were assessed using the sum scores from the 10-item Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the 8-item Cannabis Use Disorders Identification Test (CUDIT). Depression and Anxiety were captured using the sum scores of the PROMIS Depression and Anxiety measures. 65.9% of participants experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. 33.7 % of the sample experienced 3 or more traumatic events. Two hundred two participants (41.48%) endorsed experiencing an unexpected sudden death of a close friend/relative; 127 (26.08%) endorsed being raped/sexually assaulted by someone unrelated to them and 99 participants (20.33%) reported having been physically hurt or scared of being hurt by a romantic/sexual partner. Linear regressions were conducted to determine how cumulative frequencies of traumatic events predicted alcohol and marijuana problems, and depression and anxiety scores. After controlling for race/ethnicity, age and sexual orientation, the total number of traumatic events significantly predicted alcohol problems, marijuana problems, depression scores and anxiety scores (p <.01 for all), so that as the number of traumatic events increased, negative mental health outcomes and substance problems also increased. These findings highlight the importance of traumatic experiences in regard to mental health and substance problems. Future research should address potential moderators that may minimize or exacerbate the negative consequences of trauma exposure.