Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities

By David J. Lick, Laura E. Durso, Kerri L. Johnson.
October 2013

LGB individuals are at heightened risk for a range of negative health outcomes as a result of stress caused by anti-gay prejudice. Poorer general health, increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are some among many conditions where disparities exist between LGB and heterosexual individuals. This 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.

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)

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*Article published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science September 2013 vol. 8 no. 5 521-548.