Psychological distress and domestic violence under COVID-19 lockdown in LGBT+ persons in Belgium, Germany, and Portugal

Authors & affiliation

Lotte De Schrijver, Lisa Fomenko, Isabell Schuster, Paulina Tomaszewska, Sonia Dias, Ines Keygnaert


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide issued lockdown and social-distancing measures, which triggers psychological distress and may increase the occurrence of domestic violence (DV). We examined the role of the LGBT+ status in the relationship between risk factors of DV and its occurrence during the pandemic. Methods: In this cross-sectional study (n = 5,148), an online self-report questionnaire was administered to a non-probabilistic sample of participants living in Belgium, Germany, and Portugal between March and June 2020. Participants were sampled through national media, social media, and snowballing procedures. Results: LGBT+ persons reported significantly higher levels of perceived stress, more acute stress symptoms, and more illegal drug use during the first weeks of the lockdown compared to non-LGBT+ persons. DV in LGBT+ persons was not more prevalent than in the non-LGBT under COVID-19 lockdown measures. No significant evidence was found indicating that identifying as LGBT+ itself increases the risk of DV exposure. Conclusion: LGBT+ persons were more at risk of DV compared to non-LGBT+ persons prior to but not during COVID-19 lockdown measures. The increased risk for DV can be linked to socio-demographic characteristics, levels of stress, and illegal drug use which are more prevalent in LGBT+ persons than in non-LGBT+ persons.

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