December 21, 2022
Religion and spirituality play important roles in the lives of many Americans. Overall, 68% of young adults ages 18-29 in the United States report that they believe in God, and 30% report that they believe God hears people's prayers and can intervene (Jones, 2022). Numerous studies have documented the ways that religion and spirituality are associated with positive mental health and healthy development among adolescents, including prosocial behavior and better physical health (Hardy et al., 2019; Canda et al., 2019; Koenig, 2018; Smith & Denton, 2005; Yonker et al., 2012; Nadal et al., 2018). Despite this, religion and spirituality can be fraught topics among LGBTQ communities due to historical anti-LGBTQ sentiments among many religious groups. Religious dogma has been used to dehumanize LGBTQ people, and LGBTQ people have often been excluded from religious spaces, ceremonies, and communities (Sherkat, 2019; Taylor & Cuthbert, 2019). While some American religious communities are shifting toward affirming and celebrating their LGBTQ members (Barton & Currier, 2019; Rodriguez & Etengoff, 2016), significant strides remain to ensure LGBTQ inclusion in many religious communities and spaces. Perhaps due to this historical exclusion and dehumanization, religion and spirituality have mixed associations with mental health among LGBTQ youth and adults. While, LGBQ young adults who report that religion is important to them also report higher odds of recent suicidal ideation (Lytle et al., 2018), LGB adults who report that they left their religion due to conflict with their sexual identity report higher odds of attempting suicide, compared to their peers who had no conflict between their faith and sexuality (Gibbs et al., 2015), suggesting the mental health impact is related to how they are treated in these spaces. Historical conflicts between religious communities and LGBTQ people have created a common misperception that LGBTQ people cannot be religious or spiritual. Using data from The Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, this brief sheds light on the importance of religion and spirituality in the lives of LGBTQ youth.