We tested the preliminary efficacy of a transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral treatment adapted to improve depression, anxiety, and co-occurring health risks (i.e., alcohol use, sexual compulsivity, condomless sex) among young adult gay and bisexual men. Treatment adaptations focused on reducing minority stress processes that underlie sexual orientation-related mental health disparities.
Young gay and bisexual men (n=63; M age=25.94) were randomized to immediate treatment or a three-month waitlist. At baseline, 3-month, and 6-month assessments, participants completed self-reports of mental health and minority stress and an interview of past-90-day risk behavior.
Compared to waitlist, treatment significantly reduced depressive symptoms (b=−2.43, 95% CI: −4.90, 0.35, p<0.001), alcohol use problems (b =−3.79, 95% CI: −5.94, −1.64, p<0.001), sexual compulsivity (b =−5.09, 95% CI: −8.78, −1.40, p<0.001), and past-90-day condomless sex with casual partners (b =−1.09, 95% CI: −1.80, −0.37, p<0.001), and improved condom use self-efficacy (b =10.08, 95% CI: 3.86, 16.30, p<0.001). The treatment yielded moderate and marginally significant greater improvements than waitlist in anxiety symptoms (b =−2.14, 95% CI: −4.61, 0.34, p=0.09) and past-90-day heavy drinking (b =−0.32, 95% CI: −0.71, 0.07, p=0.09). Effects were generally maintained at follow-up. Minority stress processes showed small improvements in the expected direction.
This study demonstrated preliminary support for the first intervention adapted to address gay and bisexual men’s co-occurring health problems at their source in minority stress. If found to be efficacious compared to standard evidence-based treatments, the treatment will possess substantial potential for helping clinicians translate LGB-affirmative treatment guidelines into evidence-based practice.
Public Health Significance
Sexual orientation-related disparities in depression and anxiety co-occur with alcohol use, sexual compulsivity, and risky sexual behavior to form a syndemic health threat surrounding young gay and bisexual men. Clear and consistent evidence suggests that a major source of this syndemic is minority stress—the stress associated with stigma-related social disadvantage that compounds general life stress. This study represents the first test of an adapted cognitive behavioral intervention designed to alleviate minority stress among young gay and bisexual men to improve the co-occurring health conditions facing this population.
minority stress; stigma; LGB-affirmative; intervention; cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Although epidemiologic studies have established the existence of large sexual orientation disparities in illicit drug use among adolescents and young adults, the determinants of these disparities remain understudied. This study sought to determine whether sexual orientation disparities in illicit drug use are potentiated in states that are characterized by high levels of stigma surrounding sexual minorities. State-level structural stigma was coded using a previously established measure based on a 4-item composite index: (1) density of same-sex couples; (2) proportion of Gay-Straight Alliances per public high school; (3) 5 policies related to sexual orientation discrimination (e.g., same-sex marriage, employment non-discrimination); and (4) public opinion toward homosexuality (aggregated responses from 41 national polls). The index was linked to individual-level data from the Growing Up Today Study, a prospective community-based study of adolescents (2000–2010). Sexual minorities report greater illicit drug use than their heterosexual peers. However, for both men and women, there were statistically significant interactions between sexual orientation status and structural stigma, such that sexual orientation disparities in marijuana and illicit drug use were more pronounced in high-structural stigma states than in low-structural stigma states, controlling for individual- and state-level confounders. For instance, among men, the risk ratio indicating the association between sexual orientation and marijuana use was 24% greater in high- versus low-structural stigma states, and for women it was 28% greater in high- versus low-structural stigma states. Stigma in the form of social policies and attitudes may contribute to sexual orientation disparities in illicit drug use.
sexual orientation; adolescents; stigma; illicit drug use
Although previous studies have established that rumination influences responses to stressful life events, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain inadequately understood. The current study examines the relationship between trait rumination and affective, cognitive, and physiological responses to a standardized laboratory-based stressor in adolescents. A community-based sample of adolescents (N = 157) aged 13–17 completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Affective, cognitive, and physiological responses were obtained before, during, and after the TSST. Adolescents who engaged in habitual rumination experienced greater negative affect and more negative cognitive appraisals in response to the TSST than adolescents with lower levels of rumination. Rumination was unrelated to heart rate reactivity, but predicted slower heart rate recovery from the TSST, indicating that rumination might be specifically associated with physiological recovery from stress. Rumination is associated with negative affective, cognitive, and physiological responses following stressors, suggesting potential mechanisms through which it might increase risk for psychopathology.
rumination; stress; stressful life events; emotion regulation; physiological reactivity; recovery
men who have sex with men; HIV; pre-exposure prophylaxis; structural stigma; post-exposure prophylaxis
Substantial country-level variation exists in prejudiced attitudes towards male homosexuality and in the extent to which countries promote the unequal treatment of MSM through discriminatory laws. The impact and underlying mechanisms of country-level stigma on odds of diagnosed HIV, sexual opportunities, and experience of HIV-prevention services, needs and behaviours have rarely been examined, however.
Data come from the European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS), which was administered between June and August 2010 across 38 European countries (N =174 209).
Country-level stigma was assessed using a combination of national laws and policies affecting sexual minorities and a measure of attitudes held by the citizens of each country. We also assessed concealment, HIV status, number of past 12-month male sex partners, and eight HIV-preventive services, knowledge, and behavioural outcomes.
MSM living in countries with higher levels of stigma had reduced odds of diagnosed HIV and fewer partners but higher odds of sexual risk behaviour, unmet prevention needs, not using testing services, and not discussing their sexuality in testing services. Sexual orientation concealment mediated associations between country-level stigma and these outcomes.
Country-level stigma may have historically limited HIV transmission opportunities among MSM, but by restricting MSM’s public visibility, it also reduces MSM’s ability to access HIV-preventive services, knowledge and precautionary behaviours. These findings suggest that MSM in European countries with high levels of stigma are vulnerable to HIV infection. Although they have less opportunity to identify and contact other MSM, this might change with emerging technologies.
concealment; MSM; policy; sexual orientation; stigma
This study assessed individual (i.e., internalized transphobia) and structural forms of stigma as risk factors for suicide attempts among transgender adults. Internalized transphobia was assessed through a 26-item scale including four dimensions: pride, passing, alienation and shame. State-level structural stigma was operationalized as a composite index, including: density of same-sex couples; proportion of Gay-Straight Alliances per public high school; 5 policies related to sexual orientation discrimination; and aggregated public opinion towards homosexuality. Multivariable logistic generalized estimating equation models assessed associations of interest among an online sample of transgender adults (N=1,229) representing 48 states and the District of Columbia. Lower levels of structural stigma were associated with fewer lifetime suicide attempts (AOR 0.96, 95% CI 0.92–0.997), and a higher score on the internalized transphobia scale was associated with greater lifetime suicide attempts (AOR 1.18, 95% CI 1.04–1.33). Addressing stigma at multiple levels is necessary to reduce the vulnerability of suicide attempts among transgender adults.
Transgender; suicide attempts; structural stigma; internalized transphobia
Mental health disparities between sexual minorities and heterosexuals remain inadequately understood, especially across levels of educational attainment. The purpose of the present study was to test whether education modifies the association between sexual orientation and mental disorder.
We compared the odds of past 12-month and lifetime psychiatric disorder prevalence (any Axis-I, any mood, any anxiety, any substance use, and comorbidity) between lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) and heterosexual individuals by educational attainment (those with and without a bachelor’s degree), adjusting for covariates, and tested for interaction between sexual orientation and educational attainment. Data are drawn from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a nationally representative survey of non-institutionalized US adults (N= 34 653; 577 LGB).
Sexual orientation disparities in mental health are smaller among those with a college education. Specifically, the disparity in those with versus those without a bachelor’s degree was attenuated by 100% for any current mood disorder, 82% for any current Axis-I disorder, 76% for any current anxiety disorder, and 67% for both any current substance use disorder and any current comorbidity. Further, the interaction between sexual orientation and education was statistically significant for any current Axis-I disorder, any current mood disorder, and any current anxiety disorder. Our findings for lifetime outcomes were similar.
The attenuated mental health disparity at higher education levels underscores the particular risk for disorder among LGBs with less education. Future studies should consider selection versus causal factors to explain the attenuated disparity we found at higher education levels.
sexual orientation; disparities; education; psychiatric disorder
Social support has been repeatedly associated with mental and physical health outcomes, with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activity posited as a potential mechanism. The influence of social bonds appears particularly important in the face of stigma-related stress; however, there is a dearth of research examining social support and HPA axis response among members of a stigmatized group. To address this gap in the literature, we tested in a sample of 70 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young adults whether family support or peer support differentially predict cortisol reactivity in response to a laboratory stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test. While greater levels of family support were associated with reduced cortisol reactivity, neither peer support nor overall support satisfaction was associated with cortisol response. These findings suggest that the association between social support and neuroendocrine functioning differs according to the source of support among members of one stigmatized group.
Salivary cortisol; HPA axis; Stigma; Stress; Social support
Recent studies have identified substantial health disparities between lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals compared to heterosexuals. However, possible variation in sexual orientation health disparities by age and according to gender remains largely unexplored.
To examine physical health disparities between LGB and heterosexual individuals in a general population sample in Sweden, to explore potential age and gender differences in these disparities, and to test potential mechanisms underlying any observed disparities.
Between 2008 and 2013, 60,922 individuals (16–84 years of age) responded to nationwide population-based health surveys. In the sample, 430 (0.7 %) individuals self-identified as gay/lesbian and 757 (1.3 %) self-identified as bisexual. Logistic and negative binomial regression analyses were used to explore health disparities based on sexual orientation.
Overall, LGB individuals were more likely to report worse self-rated health as well as more physical health symptoms (e.g., pain, insomnia, dermatitis, tinnitus, intestinal problems) and conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure) compared to heterosexuals. However, these physical health disparities differed by age. Disparities were largest among adolescents and young adults and generally smallest in older age groups. Health behaviors and elevated reports of exposure to perceived discrimination, victimization, and threats of violence among sexual minorities partially explained the sexual orientation disparities in physical health.
Age emerged as an important effect modifier of physical health disparities based on sexual orientation. Gender-specific findings suggest that sexual orientation disparities persist into adulthood for women but are gradually attenuated for older age groups; in contrast, for men, these disparities disappear starting with young adults. These results support a developmental model of minority stress and physical health among LGB individuals.
Self-rated health; Minority stress; Health behaviors; Gay/bisexual; Sexual orientation; Life span
The goal of the present study was to examine whether sexual minority young adults are more vulnerable to developing cardiometabolic risk following exposure to stressful life events than heterosexual young adults.
Data came from the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health (Shin, Edwards, & Heeren, 2009; Brummett et al., 2013), a prospective nationally representative study of U.S. adolescents followed into young adulthood. A total of 306 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) respondents and 6,667 heterosexual respondents met inclusion criteria for this analysis. Measures of cumulative stressful life events were drawn from all 4 waves of data collection; sexual orientation and cardiometabolic biomarkers were assessed at Wave 4 (2008–2009).
Gay/bisexual men exposed to 1–2 (β = 0.71, p = .01) and 5 + (β = 0.87, p = .01) stressful life events had a statistically significant elevation in cardiometabolic risk, controlling for demographics, health behaviors, and socioeconomic status. Moreover, in models adjusted for all covariates, lesbian/bisexual (β = 0.52, p = .046) women with 5 + stressful life events had a statistically significant elevation in cardiometabolic risk. There was no relationship between stressful life events and cardiometabolic risk among heterosexual men or women.
Stressful life events during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood place LGB young adults at heightened risk for elevated cardiometabolic risk as early as young adulthood. The mechanisms underlying this relationship require future study.
sexual orientation; cardiometabolic biomarkers; stressful life events; young adults
Biological sex differences and sociocultural gender diversity influence endocrine stress reactivity. Although numerous studies have shown that men typically activate stronger stress responses than women when exposed to laboratory-based psychosocial stressors, it is unclear whether sexual orientation further modulates stress reactivity. Given that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals frequently report heightened distress secondary to stigma-related stressors, we investigated whether cortisol stress reactivity differs between LGB individuals and heterosexual individuals in response to a well-validated psychosocial stressor.
The study population comprised 87 healthy adults (mean age, 25 years) who were grouped according to their biological sex and their gendered sexual orientation: lesbian/bisexual women (n = 20), heterosexual women (n = 21), gay/bisexual men (n = 26), and heterosexual men (n = 20). Investigators collected 10 salivary cortisol samples throughout a 2-hour afternoon visit involving exposure to the Trier Social Stress Test modified to maximize between-sex differences.
Relative to heterosexual women, lesbian/bisexual women showed higher cortisol stress reactivity 40 min after exposure to the stressor. In contrast, gay/bisexual men displayed lower overall cortisol concentrations throughout testing compared with heterosexual men. Main findings were significant while adjusting for sex hormones (estradiol-to-progesterone ratio in women and testosterone in men), age, self-esteem, and disclosure status (whether LGB participants had completed their “coming out”).
Our results provide novel evidence for gender-based modulation of cortisol stress reactivity based on sexual orientation that goes beyond well-established between-sex differences. This study raises several important avenues for future research related to the physiologic functioning of LGB populations and gender diversity more broadly.
Cortisol; Gender diversity; Sex differences; Sexual orientation; Stress reactivity; Trier Social Stress Test
Racial disparities in health are well-documented and represent a significant public health concern in the US. Racism-related factors contribute to poorer health and higher mortality rates among Blacks compared to other racial groups. However, methods to measure racism and monitor its associations with health at the population-level have remained elusive. In this study, we investigated the utility of a previously developed Internet search-based proxy of area racism as a predictor of Black mortality rates. Area racism was the proportion of Google searches containing the “N-word” in 196 designated market areas (DMAs). Negative binomial regression models were specified taking into account individual age, sex, year of death, and Census region and adjusted to the 2000 US standard population to examine the association between area racism and Black mortality rates, which were derived from death certificates and mid-year population counts collated by the National Center for Health Statistics (2004–2009). DMAs characterized by a one standard deviation greater level of area racism were associated with an 8.2% increase in the all-cause Black mortality rate, equivalent to over 30,000 deaths annually. The magnitude of this effect was attenuated to 5.7% after adjustment for DMA-level demographic and Black socioeconomic covariates. A model controlling for the White mortality rate was used to further adjust for unmeasured confounders that influence mortality overall in a geographic area, and to examine Black-White disparities in the mortality rate. Area racism remained significantly associated with the all-cause Black mortality rate (mortality rate ratio = 1.036; 95% confidence interval = 1.015, 1.057; p = 0.001). Models further examining cause-specific Black mortality rates revealed significant associations with heart disease, cancer, and stroke. These findings are congruent with studies documenting the deleterious impact of racism on health among Blacks. Our study contributes to evidence that racism shapes patterns in mortality and generates racial disparities in health.
To describe relationships between tobacco-related environments and disparities in smoking by sexual orientation.
We examined three aspects of state-level tobacco environments, which were derived from the ImpacTeen State Level Tobacco Control Policy and Prevalence Database: (1) tobacco price and tax data and tobacco control funding; (2) tobacco control policies and (3) tobacco prevalence and norms data. This information was linked to individual-level data on sexual orientation, tobacco use and nicotine dependence in Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N=34 653; 577 LGB respondents), a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of adults in the USA.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults in states with more restrictive tobacco environments were less likely to have ever smoked (AOR=0.78, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.00) and to currently smoke (AOR=0.77, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.99) than LGB adults in more permissive tobacco environments. Further, sexual orientation disparities in past and current smoking, as well as in current nicotine dependence, were lower in states with the most restrictive tobacco environments. Results were robust to adjustment for confounders at the individual and state levels.
Restrictive state-level tobacco environments are correlates of smoking behaviours among LGB adults in the USA; such environments could potentially reduce social inequalities in smoking based on sexual orientation.
There is a growing research literature suggesting that racism is an important risk factor undermining the health of Blacks in the United States. Racism can take many forms, ranging from interpersonal interactions to institutional/structural conditions and practices. Existing research, however, tends to focus on individual forms of racial discrimination using self-report measures. Far less attention has been paid to whether structural racism may disadvantage the health of Blacks in the United States. The current study addresses gaps in the existing research by using novel measures of structural racism and by explicitly testing the hypothesis that structural racism is a risk factor for myocardial infarction among Blacks in the United States. State-level indicators of structural racism included four domains: (1) political participation; (2) employment and job status; (3) educational attainment; and (4) judicial treatment. State-level racial disparities across these domains were proposed to represent the systematic exclusion of Blacks from resources and mobility in society. Data on past-year myocardial infarction were obtained from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (non-Hispanic Black: N = 8245; non-Hispanic White: N = 24,507), a nationally representative survey of the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 18 and older. Models were adjusted for individual-level confounders (age, sex, education, household income, medical insurance) as well as for state-level disparities in poverty. Results indicated that Blacks living in states with high levels of structural racism were generally more likely to report past-year myocardial infarction than Blacks living in low-structural racism states. Conversely, Whites living in high structural racism states experienced null or lower odds of myocardial infarction compared to Whites living in low-structural racism states. These results raise the provocative possibility that structural racism may not only harm the targets of stigma but also benefit those who wield the power to enact stigma and discrimination.
Structural racism; Stigma; Health inequalities; Cardiovascular disease
To evaluate whether anti-bullying policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation are associated with a reduced prevalence of suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths.
31,852 11th grade public school students (1,413 LGB individuals; 4.4%) in Oregon completed the Oregon Healthy Teens (OHT) survey in 2006–2008. The independent variable was the proportion of school districts in the 34 counties participating in the OHT survey that adopted anti-bullying policies inclusive of sexual orientation. The outcome measure was any self-reported suicide attempt in the past 12 months. Results were stratified by sexual orientation.
Lesbian and gay youths living in counties with fewer school districts with inclusive anti-bullying policies were 2.25 times (95% C.I.: 1.13, 4.49) more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year compared to those living in counties where more districts had these policies. Inclusive anti-bullying policies were significantly associated with a reduced risk for suicide attempts among lesbian and gay youths even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics (sex, race/ethnicity) and exposure to peer victimization (OR=0.18, 95% CI: 0.03–0.92). In contrast, anti-bullying policies that did not include sexual orientation were not associated with lower suicide attempts among lesbian and gay youths (OR=0.38, 95% CI: 0.02–7.33).
Inclusive anti-bullying policies may exert protective effects for the mental health of lesbian and gay youths, including reducing their risk for suicide attempts.
anti-bullying policies; sexual orientation; suicide attempts
Emerging evidence from general population studies suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults are more likely to experience adverse cardiovascular outcomes relative to heterosexuals. No studies have examined whether sexual orientation disparities exist in biomarkers of early cardiovascular disease risk.
To determine whether sexual orientation disparities in biomarkers of early cardiovascular risk are present among young adults.
Data come from Wave IV (2008–2009) of the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health (N=12,451), a prospective nationally representative study of U.S. adolescents followed into young adulthood (mean age: 28.9 years). A total of 520 respondents identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Biomarkers included C-reactive protein, glycosylated hemoglobin, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and pulse rate. Analyses were conducted in 2012.
In gender-stratified models adjusted for demographics (age, race/ethnicity); SES (income, education); health behaviors (smoking, regular physical activity, alcohol consumption); and BMI, gay and bisexual men had significant elevations in C-reactive protein, diastolic blood pressure, and pulse rate, compared to heterosexual men. Despite having more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and higher BMI, lesbians and bisexual women had lower levels of C-reactive protein than heterosexual women in fully adjusted models.
Evidence was found for sexual orientation disparities in biomarkers of cardiovascular risk among young adults, particularly in gay and bisexual men. These findings, if confirmed in other studies, suggest that disruptions in core physiologic processes that ultimately confer risk for cardiovascular disease may occur early in the life course for sexual minority men.
The aim of the study was to examine the social networks of sexual minority youths and to determine the associations between social networks and depressive symptoms. Data were obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative cohort study of American adolescents (N=14,212). Wave 1 (1994–1995) collected extensive information about the social networks of participants through peer nomination inventories, as well as measures of sexual minority status and depressive symptoms. Using social network data, we examined three characteristics of adolescents’ social relationships: (1) social isolation; (2) degree of connectedness; and (3) social status. Sexual minority youths, particularly females, were more isolated, less connected, and had lower social status in peer networks than opposite-sex attracted youths. Among sexual minority male (but not female) youths, greater isolation as well as lower connectedness and status within a network were associated with greater depressive symptoms. Moreover, greater isolation in social networks partially explained the association between sexual minority status and depressive symptoms among males. Finally, a significant 3-way interaction indicated that the association between social isolation and depression was stronger for sexual minority male youths than non-minority youths and sexual minority females. These results suggest that the social networks in which sexual minority male youths are embedded may confer risk for depressive symptoms, underscoring the importance of considering peer networks in both research and interventions targeting sexual minority male adolescents.
USA; sexual orientation; social networks; depression; minorities; adolescents
Exposure to stress is associated with a wide range of internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescents, including aggressive behavior. Extant research examining mechanisms underlying the associations between stress and youth aggression has consistently identified social information processing pathways that are disrupted by exposure to violence and increase risk of aggressive behavior. In the current study, we use longitudinal data to examine emotion dysregulation as a potential mechanism linking a broader range of stressful experiences to aggressive behavior in a diverse sample of early adolescents (N=1065). Specifically, we examined the longitudinal associations of peer victimization and stressful life events with emotion dysregulation and aggressive behavior. Structural equation modeling was used to create latent constructs of emotion dysregulation and aggression. Both stressful life events and peer victimization predicted subsequent increases in emotion dysregulation over a 4-month period. These increases in emotion dysregulation, in turn, were associated with increases in aggression over the subsequent 3 months. Longitudinal mediation models showed that emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship of both peer victimization (z=2.35, p=0.019) and stressful life events (z=2.32, p=0.020) with aggressive behavior. Increasing the use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies is an important target for interventions aimed at preventing the onset of adolescent aggressive behavior.
Stress; Peer victimization; Aggression; Emotion regulation; Adolescence
Despite the increased prevalence of weight discrimination, few studies have examined the association between perceived weight discrimination and the prevalence of current psychiatric disorders in the general population. This study utilized a subsample of overweight and obese individuals (N = 22,231) from Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a cross-sectional nationally representative study of noninstitutionalized US adults. Perceived weight discrimination is associated with substantial psychiatric morbidity and comorbidity. These results remained significant after adjusting for a potential confound, perceived stress. Moreover, social support did not buffer against the adverse effects of perceived weight discrimination on mental health. Controlling for BMI did not diminish the associations, indicating that perceived weight discrimination is potentially harmful to mental health regardless of weight. These results highlight the urgent need for a multifaceted approach to address this important public health issue, including interventions to assist overweight individuals in coping with the mental health sequelae of perceived weight discrimination.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations exhibit elevated rates of psychiatric disorders compared to heterosexuals, and these disparities emerge early in the life course. We examined the role of exposure to early-life victimization and adversity—including physical and sexual abuse, homelessness, and intimate partner violence—in explaining sexual orientation disparities in mental health among adolescents and young adults.
Data were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Wave 3 (2001–2002), a nationally representative survey of adolescents. Participants included gay/lesbian (n=227), bisexual (n=245), and heterosexual (n=13,490) youths, ages 18–27. We examined differences in the prevalence of exposure to child physical or sexual abuse, homelessness or expulsion from one’s home by caregivers, and physical and sexual intimate partner violence according to sexual orientation. Next we examined the associations of these exposures with symptoms of psychopathology including suicidal ideation and attempts, depression, binge drinking, illicit drug use, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. Finally, we determined whether exposure to victimization and adversity explained the association between sexual orientation and psychopathology.
Gay/lesbian and bisexual respondents had higher levels of psychopathology than heterosexuals across all outcomes. Gay/lesbian respondents had higher odds of exposure to child abuse and housing adversity, and bisexual respondents had higher odds of exposure to child abuse, housing adversity, and intimate partner violence, than heterosexuals. Greater exposure to these adversities explained between 10–20% of the relative excess of suicidality, depression, tobacco use, and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse among LGB youths compared to heterosexuals. Exposure to victimization and adversity experiences in childhood and adolescence significantly mediated the association of both gay/lesbian and bisexual orientation with suicidality, depressive symptoms, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse.
Exposure to victimization in early-life family and romantic relationships explains, in part, sexual orientation disparities in a wide range of mental health and substance use outcomes, highlighting novel targets for preventive interventions aimed at reducing these disparities.
Exposure to stress is potentially important in the pathway to alcohol use and alcohol use disorders. Stressors occur at multiple time points across the life course, with varying degrees of chronicity and severity.
We review evidence from epidemiologic studies on the relationship between four different stressors (fateful/catastrophic events, child maltreatment, common adult stressful life events in interpersonal, occupational, financial, and legal domains, and minority stress) and alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders.
Studies generally demonstrate an increase in alcohol consumption in response to exposure to terrorism or other disasters. Research has demonstrated little increase in incident alcohol use disorders, but individuals with a history of alcohol use disorders are more likely to report drinking to cope with the traumatic event. Childhood maltreatment is a consistent risk factor for early onset of drinking in adolescence and adult alcohol use disorders, and accumulating evidence suggests that specific polymorphisms may interact with child maltreatment to increase risk for alcohol consumption and disorder. Stressful life events such as divorce and job loss increase the risk of alcohol disorders, but epidemiologic consensus on the specificity of these associations across gender has not been reached. Finally, both perceptions of discrimination and objective indicators of discrimination are associated with alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among racial/ethnic and sexual minorities.
Taken together, these literatures demonstrate that exposure to stress is an important component in individual differences in risk for alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders. However, many areas of this research remain to be studied, including greater attention to the role of various stressors in the course of alcohol use disorders and potential risk moderators when individuals are exposed to stressors.
Stigma is a risk factor for mental health problems, but few studies have considered how stigma leads to psychological distress. The present research examined whether specific emotion-regulation strategies account for the stigma-distress association. In an experience-sampling study, rumination and suppression occurred more on days when stigma-related stressors were reported than on days when these stressors were not reported, and rumination mediated the relationship between stigma-related stress and psychological distress. The effect of social support on distress was moderated by the concealability of the stigma: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) respondents reported more isolation and less social support than African American respondents subsequent to experiencing stigma-related stressors, whereas African Americans reported greater social support than LGB participants. Social isolation mediated the stigma-distress association among LGB respondents. In a second experimental study, participants who ruminated following the recall of an autobiographical discrimination event exhibited prolonged distress on both implicit and explicit measures relative to participants who distracted themselves; this finding provides support for a causal role of rumination in the stigma-distress relationship.
Bodies of research pertaining to specific stigmatized statuses have typically developed in separate domains and have focused on single outcomes at 1 level of analysis, thereby obscuring the full significance of stigma as a fundamental driver of population health. Here we provide illustrative evidence on the health consequences of stigma and present a conceptual framework describing the psychological and structural pathways through which stigma influences health. Because of its pervasiveness, its disruption of multiple life domains (e.g., resources, social relationships, and coping behaviors), and its corrosive impact on the health of populations, stigma should be considered alongside the other major organizing concepts for research on social determinants of population health.
We sought to determine whether health care use and expenditures among gay and bisexual men were reduced following the enactment of samesex marriage laws in Massachusetts in 2003.
We used quasi-experimental, prospective data from 1211 sexual minority male patients in a community-based health center in Massachusetts.
In the 12 months after the legalization of same-sex marriage, sexual minority men had a statistically significant decrease in medical care visits (mean= 5.00 vs mean=4.67; P=.05; Cohen’s d=0.17), mental health care visits (mean= 24.72 vs mean= 22.20; P=.03; Cohen’s d=0.35), and mental health care costs (mean= $2442.28 vs mean= $2137.38; P= .01; Cohen’s d=0.41), compared with the 12 months before the law change. These effects were not modified by partnership status, indicating that the health effect of same-sex marriage laws was similar for partnered and nonpartnered men.
Policies that confer protections to same-sex couples may be effective in reducing health care use and costs among sexual minority men.