Sexual Identity, Mental Health, and Risky Health Behaviors: New Evidence from Australia
Joseph J. Sabia, San Diego State University
Mark Wooden, University of Melbourne
In 2012, respondents to the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey were, for the first time, asked to report their sexual identity. This study uses these newly-released nationally representative, longitudinal data to examine the relationship between sexual identity and a variety of risky health behaviors, including tobacco use, binge drinking, and exercise. We examine “level” differences in health behaviors, as well as differences in over-time trends in individuals’ health behaviors, between sexual minorities and their heterosexual counterparts. In addition, we empirically explore a potentially important mechanism that may explain a relationship between sexual identity and risky health behaviors: mental health. Our empirical strategy examines the sensitivity of our estimated health effects to potentially important confounders, including family background characteristics and personality.