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Study: Antigay Prejudice Increases Health Risks For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual People

The Williams Institute Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – August 4, 2011 – New research shows that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB) are at increased risk for physical health problems due to prejudice-related stress. On August 5, 2011, findings from the new report, Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities, written by David M. Frost, Keren Lehavot, and Ilan H. Meyer, will be presented at the American Psychological Association”s annual conference in Washington, DC.

Researchers found that LGB people who had experienced prejudice-related major life events were about three times more likely to have suffered a serious physical health problem over a one-year follow-up period than those who had not experienced such events.. The effects of prejudice-related events remained statistically significant even after controlling for the experience of other stressful events, as well as other factors known to affect physical health, such as age, gender, employment, and lifetime health history.

“This study shows that stigma and prejudice have a great toll on the health of LGB people. Prejudice-related life events are more damaging to the physical health of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals than any other kind of stressful life event” said Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy and the senior author of the paper.

“These findings demonstrate a clear need for interventions and policy change to reduce the stigma surrounding sexual minorities that is still prevalent in society,” said Dr. David M. Frost, Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University and the lead author of the paper.

This report adds to current knowledge on the effect of hate crime on health outcomes. In the past, researchers have shown that hate crimes have a greater impact on mental health than similar crimes not motivated by hate. “Prejudice events attach to a history of marginalization and thus, can symbolize social disapprobation and rejection” Said Dr. Meyer. The researchers noted that further work is needed to replicate the findings of this study, to understand the specific health outcomes that are implicated, and to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the connection between the life events and health outcomes.

The research was based on interviews of 400 sexual minority men and women in New York City over a one year period and was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers, and the public.

For more information, please visit www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute