Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physiological impacts of homophobia

Date:
February 2, 2011
Source:
Concordia University
Summary:
Young adults who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are at far higher risk for severe mental health problems than their heterosexual peers. New research suggests that the stress of being rejected or victimized because of sexual orientation may disrupt hormonal responses in lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Young adults who are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) are at far higher risk for severe mental health problems than their heterosexual peers. New research from Concordia University suggests that the stress of being rejected or victimized because of sexual orientation may disrupt hormonal responses in lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Recently published as a doctoral thesis in clinical psychology, this investigation examined environmental risks and protective factors that counterbalanced them in LGB youth. "Compared to their heterosexual peers, suicide rates are up to 14 times higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual high school and college students," says Michael Benibgui, who led this investigation as part of his PhD thesis at Concordia's Department of Psychology and Centre for Research in Human Development.

"Depression and anxiety are widespread," he continues. "To learn why this occurs, we studied the physiological impact of homophobic social environments on a group of healthy young LGB adults."

Self loathing, stress hormones and bullying linked

The study examined the link between living in a homophobic environment and 'internalized homophobia,' e.g., feeling negatively about oneself because of one's sexual identity as LGB.

Individuals who experienced more LGB-related stress -- arguments about sexual identity, bullying or discrimination -- had higher internalized homophobia and showed increased production of the stress hormone cortisol compared to peers in more positive environments.

What's more, LGB youth who showed more internalized homophobia and abnormal cortisol activity also experienced increased symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. "This study is among the first to clearly link the experience of homophobia with abnormal cortisol activity," says Benibgui.

Benibgui says abnormal cortisol activity in LGB youth, combined with the vicious cycle of stress, could be further influenced by a complex set of biological, psychological and social factors. "This study shows a clear relation between abnormal cortisol levels and environmental stressors related to homophobia," he says.

Protective factors of social networks

Benibgui also identified protective factors that can help safeguard mental health in young gays, lesbians and bisexuals. His research confirms that social support from parents and peers have protective effects. "LGB young adults who experienced more homophobic discrimination, yet felt accepted and supported by their peers, showed very few symptoms of depression," he says.

These findings underline the impact -- both physical and mental -- that homophobia may have on LGB young adults. "The effect on mental health of bullying in schools has received much attention," says Benibgui. "Our study supports the notion that homophobic bullying can lead to physical and mental health problems."

Preventative interventions are needed to protect vulnerable lesbian, gay or bisexual youth, Benibgui stresses, to discourage homophobic and heterosexist behaviors from peers and communities.

Paul Hastings, a former Concordia psychology professor who supervised Benibgui's thesis research, says that this study should push the conversation about the impact of homophobia.

"This study is one part of a much larger and greatly needed dialogue on the impacts that prejudice, discrimination and victimization have on healthy development and well-being in young people," says Dr. Hastings, an international member of the Centre for Research in Human Development and now a professor at the University of California, Davis. "We need to promote acceptance and respect for the diversity of our population -- including sexual diversity -- at all levels: government, community, schools and homes."

"Mental Health Challenges and Resilience in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young Adults: Biological and Psychological Internalization of Minority Stress and Victimization," was authored by Michael Benibgui, Ph.D., as his doctoral dissertation in clinical psychology at Concordia University. Professor Paul Hastings, Ph.D., now at University of California, Davis, was project supervisor.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Concordia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Concordia University. "Physiological impacts of homophobia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114957.htm>.
Concordia University. (2011, February 2). Physiological impacts of homophobia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114957.htm
Concordia University. "Physiological impacts of homophobia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114957.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

AFP (Aug. 21, 2014) Two American missionaries who were sickened with Ebola while working in Liberia and were treated with an experimental drug are doing better and have left the hospital, doctors say on August 21, 2014. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins