“Trying My Best”: Sexual Minority Adolescents' Self-Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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J Adolesc Health. 2021 Apr 16:S1054-139X(21)00140-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.03.013. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major life disruptions for sexual minority adolescents (SMAs), who already face and cope with pervasive and disproportionate rates of social, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Current research suggests that SMAs are struggling with COVID-19-related shelter in place orders navigating family proximity and dynamics and experiencing isolation from SMA-specific supports. Given identified challenges that may exacerbate known mental health disparities in SMAs, this work explores self-care practices among SMAs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: The present study uses data from open-ended questions to understand SMA experiences of self-care within a nationwide sample of SMAs (N = 770; M = 17.48 years, SD = 1.00) who are part of an ongoing prospective study. Data were collected via online questionnaire between May 13 and 31, 2020. Thematic analysis guided data exploration.

RESULTS: Thematic analysis revealed five self-care practices among SMAs: (1) relationships, (2) routines, (3) body and mind, (4) rest and reset, and (5) tuning out. SMAs engaged in many positive coping strategies (i.e., exercise, establishing routine) and often linked these activities to positive well-being. Other SMAs engaged in activities to distract or disengage from stressors (i.e., excessive TV and alcohol and drug use).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the resiliency of SMAs during the current pandemic, opportunities for providers to emphasize adaptive coping skills with youths, and the need for more research on adolescent self-care practices.

PMID:33875330 | DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.03.013