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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Prejudice and Stigma Make Gays Sick, Study Says

Posted By on Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM

click to enlarge FLICKR/COURTNEY RHODES

While lesbians may be winning the all-important war against hand holding, when it comes to real mental and physical health problems, a new study shows that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals suffer serious disparities from homophobia and prejudice. 

"Our review is the first to bring together social and basic science research to demonstrate the truly negative impact that anti-gay stigma can have on the physical health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people," said co-author Laura E. Durso.

The study, "Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities," conducted by the Williams Institute, provides a comprehensive look at how social inequality negatively impacts the physical and mental health of LGBs.

Poorer general health, increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are just a few of the many higher-risk conditions LGB individuals may suffer compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to authors David J. Lick, Laura E. Durso, and Kerri L. Johnson. Researchers link these disparities to difficult social experiences and internalized biases (such as anti-gay victimization and internalized homophobia) that cause stress.

A more detailed breakdown shows that, compared to heterosexuals, LGB individuals exhibit:

  • Higher prevalence and earlier onset of disabilities, such as use of a walking assistant
  • Higher rates of asthma
  • Higher rates of allergies
  • Higher rates of osteoarthritis and chronic gastro-intestinal problems

Compared to heterosexuals, lesbian and bisexual women exhibit:

  • Heightened risk of some cancers, especially breast cancer
  • Heightened risk for and diagnoses of cardiovascular disease

Compared to heterosexuals, gay and bisexual men exhibit:

  • Heightened risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Greater disability and activity limitations due to debilitating physical conditions
  • More migraine headaches and urinary incontinence

We wouldn't be surprised if anti-gay stigma also contributed to LGB people going to the doctor less frequently than their straight peers, as well as the barriers involved in gays getting on their partners' health insurance plans.

"The review demonstrates that disparities in LGB physical health are quite real, and that more research is critical for understanding how to address such negative health outcomes for all Americans," said co-author David Lick.

Until we can put a stop to victimization and social inequality, (it's on our to-do list for next week), take care of yourselves. Health and happiness are the best revenge, after all.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley

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