Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Dr. Sharon Scales Rostosky

Abstract

Mental health issues have been the primary focus of much of the health research concerning lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals over the previous decade. Studies have demonstrated that LGB individuals experience psychological distress due to prejudice and discrimination (Lewis, Derlega, Berndt, Morris, & Rose, 2002; Meyer, Schwartz, & Frost, 2008; Rostosky, Riggle, Horne, & Miller, 2009). Health researchers have not given the physical health of LGB individuals the same level of attention (Dibble, Eliason, & Christiansen, 2007). The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA; 2001) asserted that little was known about LGB physical health disparities and called for more research in this area. However, the Institute of Medicine (2011) showed that comparatively little is known about LGB physical health. There is growing evidence from population-based studies that LGB individuals may be at greater risk than heterosexuals for many physical health conditions (Cochran & Mays, 2007; Dilley, Simmons, Boysun, Pizacani, & Stark, 2010; Sandfort, Bakker, Schellevis, & Vanwesenbeeck, 2009). Many of these studies (e.g., Cochran & Mays, 2007; Sandfort et al., 2009) referred to the stigmatization of LGB individuals; however, none of these studies empirically explored the relation between stigmatization and physical health in LGB individuals. The goal of this study was to test the utility of Meyer’s (2003) minority stress model as a means of explaining the physical health of LGB individuals in the context of a heterosexist society.

This study investigated empirical questions about minority stress factors, physical health, and coping self-efficacy (CSE) of LGB individuals. Five-hundred fifteen LGBidentified adult participants (n = 222 women and n = 293 men) were recruited to complete a web-based survey. Participants were primarily recruited through online forums sponsored by LGB-affirming organizations. Results indicated that higher expectations of rejection based on sexual identity, internalized homonegativity, and LGBbased victimization predicted greater reported physical symptoms severity (PSS). CSE fully mediated the relation between expectation of rejection and physical symptom severity and internalized homonegativity and PSS. CSE partially mediated the relation between victimization and PSS. The document proposed several clinical and systemic interventions that may benefit physical health in LGB individuals.

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