A new study has found that young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are more likely to use cannabis than their heterosexual peers, despite a de-criminalization campaign that has seen cannabis use in the country fall significantly in the last decade.

A study of more than 900 LGB youth, ages 14 to 25, found that those who were depressed were twice as likely to have used cannabis than their non-depressed peers. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that cannabis is a cause of depression, it does point to the fact that those with depression would be more likely to try cannabis than others.



It’s no secret that sexually diverse kids, particularly lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth, consume more cannabis and have more mental health issues than their heterosexual counterparts, according to research.

But what about changes in cannabis usage rates: do they come before or after those linked to mental health, or is it the other way around? A recent research from the Université of Montréal sheds some light on the subject.

Kira London-Nadeau, a PhD student and CIHR Vanier Scholar in the Department of Psychology at UdeM and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, offers an update in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

London-Nadeau examined data from 1,548 teenage boys and girls, including 128 LGB adolescents, as part of the Longitudinal Study of Child Development in Quebec, which was funded by CIHR and the Institut de la Statistique du Québec.

Participants were tracked starting at the age of five months, and the research was based on their answers to questionnaires at the ages of thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen. In the overall population, there was a link between depressed symptoms at age 15 and increasing cannabis usage at age 17, but the link was five times greater among LGB adolescents.

This connection, according to London-Nadeau, may indicate that LGB adolescents are self-medicating with cannabis to deal with depressed symptoms. Other forms of support for depressed symptoms may be insufficient or inadequate for the reality of LGB adolescents, as shown by the usage of cannabis for these reasons.

Surprisingly, the research also discovered that anxiety symptoms in LGBs at the age of 15 predicted lower cannabis usage at the age of 17. As a result, this data seems to contradict the LGB group’s conclusion of a link between sadness and cannabis usage.

The distinction between the depression-cannabis connection and the anxiety-cannabis relationship may suggest different realities that LGB adolescents face, especially in terms of public presentation of their minority sexual orientation.”

Kira London-Nadeau is a doctoral student at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Psychology and a CIHR Vanier Scholar.


According to the study, societal variables linked to a minority sexual orientation’s experience would have a significant influence in both cannabis usage and mental health problems, as well as the connection between the two, among teenagers.

In this respect, London-Nadeau stresses the need of properly equipping adolescent services, especially mental health care, to grasp the problems unique to sexual diversity groups.

“As a teenager, you’re always trying to find out your identity as a person, which is tough in and of itself,” the young researcher, who is homosexual, added. “Things become much more difficult when you add the finding of a minority sexual orientation to that identity development.”

“Now it’s a question of delving further into the whys of these connections and ensuring that additional groups, such as trans and non-binary adolescents, as well as sexually and gender diverse young adults, are included,” she added.

“These findings are critical for these communities because they will enable us to better address their needs and, as a consequence, achieve a more equal level of health parity.”


Journal citation:

K. London-Nadeau et al (2021) Cannabis, depression, and anxiety in heterosexual and LGB adolescents: a longitudinal study. doi:10.1037/abn0000542. Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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