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Anti-Gay Prejudice Linked to Physical Health Disparities

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The Williams Institute Press Release – Los Angeles October 3, 2013— LGB individuals are at heightened risk for a range of negative health outcomes as a result of stress caused by anti-gay prejudice, according to a new review by David J. Lick, Laura E. Durso, former Williams Institute Policy Fellow, and Kerri L. Johnson. Poorer general health, increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are some among many conditions where disparities exist between LGB and heterosexual individuals.

“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.

“Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities” is the first comprehensive overview of various ways in which social inequality hinders LGB physical health.

“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.

Some of the most recognizable physical health disparities discussed in the paper include the following:

Compared to heterosexuals, LGB individuals exhibit:
• Higher prevalence and earlier onset of disabilities, such as use of a walking assistant (Conron, Mimiaga, & Landers, 2010; Fredriksen-Goldsen, Kim, & Barkan, 2012; Kim & Fredriksen-Goldsen, 2012)
• Higher rates of asthma (Conron, Mimiaga, & Landers, 2010; Landers, Mimiaga, & Conron, 2011)
• Higher rates of allergies (Lock & Steiner, 1999)
• Higher rates of osteoarthritis and chronic gastro-intestinal problems (Sandfort, Bakker, Schellevis, & Vanwesenbeeck, 2006)

Compared to heterosexuals, lesbian and bisexual women exhibit:
• Heightened risk of some cancers, especially breast cancer (Brown & Tracy, 2008; Dibble, Roberts, & Nussey, 2004; Kavanaugh-Lunch, White, Daling, & Bowen, 2002)
• Heightened risk for (Case, Austin, Hunter, Manson, Malspeis, Willett, & Spiegelman, 2004; Conron, Mimiaga, & Landers, 2010) and diagnoses of (Diamant & Wold, 2003) cardiovascular disease

Compared to heterosexuals, gay and bisexual men exhibit:
• Heightened risk for cardiovascular disease (Wang, Hausermann, Counatsou, Aggleton, & Weiss, 2007)
• Greater disability and activity limitations due to debilitating physical conditions (Wang, Hausermann, Counatsou, Aggleton, & Weiss, 2007)
• More migraine headaches and urinary incontinence (Sandfort, Bakker, Schellevis, & Vanwesenbeeck, 2006)
The paper reviews current empirical findings related to LGB physical health disparities, highlights gaps in the literature, and outlines necessary steps researchers must take to understand how social experiences ultimately harm LGB physical health.

Click here for the full study.