Relationship Quality and Mental Health Among Sexual and Gender Minorities

Elissa L. Sarno*, Christina Dyar, Michael E. Newcomb, Sarah W. Whitton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sexual and gender minorities assigned female at birth (i.e., sexual minority women, transgender men, and gender diverse [SMW TGD] individuals) experience disproportionately high rates of anxiety, depression,and substance use problems. Romantic relationship involvement has been shown to be beneficial to mentalhealth and substance use among sexual and gender minorities. However, few studies have explored theimpact of relationship quality on mental health, or if high relationship quality can reduce the negative impactof minority stress on well-being in this population. The present study examined within-persons associationsof romantic relationship quality with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and alcohol and cannabis useproblems among SMW TGD individuals in romantic relationships, and tested relationship quality as amoderator of associations of minority stress with mental health and substance use. Participants were 213SMW TGD individuals (mean age: 20.63; 70.9% cisgender women, 7.5% transgender men, and 19.2%gender diverse). Within-persons, higher relationship quality was associated with better mental health andsubstance use outcomes. Relationship quality at the between-persons level moderated the within-personsassociation of internalized heterosexism with depression, and of microaggressions with cannabis useproblems. No other interaction effects were significant. The within-persons associations found in this studylend important support to relationship interventions based on theories that improvements in romanticrelationship quality will result in improved well-being over time. Results can inform relationship educationinterventions to reduce mental health and substance use disparities in SMW TGD communities

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Relationships
  • Sexual and gender minorities
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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