Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Eric R Wright, PhD

Second Advisor

Erin Ruel, PhD

Third Advisor

Jessica Pratt, MPH


INTRODUCTION: National estimates of young people who experience homelessness vary, but the numbers are large. Among those numbers, a significantly high percentage of homeless youths identify as LGBT. Additionally, LGBT youth are at higher risk of increased mental health risks than heterosexual youth. Further understanding of this occurrence among the homeless youth population is important in policy and program planning and implementation.

AIM: To examine the relationship between serious mental illness (SMI) and sex at birth, race/ethnicity, and sexual minority status in homeless youth.

METHODS: Homeless youths, both heterosexual and self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBT), aged 14-25, were recruited via convenience sampling to be part of the Atlanta Youth Count and Needs Assessment in summer of 2015.

RESULTS: Multiple logistic regression analyses revealed that SMI occurs in females 1.445 times its occurrence in males, adjusted for race/ethnicity and being lesbian/gay, bisexual or transgender (P=0.0478, 95% CI=1.004, 2.081). Serious mental illness is also 2.196 times more likely in transgender groups than in lesbian/gay and bisexual groups, adjusted for sex at birth and race/ethnicity (P=0.0284, 95% CI=1.085, 4.334).

DISCUSSION: With regards to research questions, there were no differences between homeless LGBT and homeless non-LGBT youth in regards to SMI, unlike previous literature. Consistent with previous literature, there was a difference between the transgender group and the LGB groups in regards to SMI. Also hypothesized, being born female and being transgender was associated with higher likelihood of SMI, as with previous literature. However, being bisexual was not associated with higher likelihood of SMI, unlike previous literature.