Homophobic statements trigger stress in lesbian, gays, and bisexuals
Something that we’ve all known innately, a recent study has shown that when lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are faced with homophobic statements, they experience stress that can contribute to heart disease.
This backs up previous research that suggests that stress of discrimination can lead to the development of health problems that affect lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.
The study was published last June in the journal Health Psychology.
How homophobic statements trigger stress
Related to how the body’s fight or flight response is triggered by physical danger or psychological threat, previous studies had shown that self-reports of discrimination are correlated with health problems.
However, these studies did not show that discrimination caused bodily changes that led to such health problems. The recent study looks into this link.
“This study provides strong evidence that when LGB people experience anti-gay prejudice, their bodies respond with increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and in the stress hormone cortisol,” said lead study David M. Huebner.
Huebner, a professor at the George Washington University, further said: “When the body responds like this repeatedly, it can contribute to cardiovascular disease and other illnesses that develop over time.”
A stress-causing experiment: an interview
For this laboratory study, Huebner and his colleagues had 134 lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults participate in a task that is generally considered stressful: an interview.
Of the two groups of participants, one group was shown a sheet of paper that supposedly told them that the person conducting the interview was opposed to same-sex marriage.
However, the statement was really drafted by the researchers to expose this particular group to discriminatory statements in the laboratory.
The interview questions were prerecorded to ensure there was no variability in the questions or tone of voice.
The participants then had to answer a series of questions while being measured for heart rate and blood pressure, among others.
Stress reactions from homophobic statements
While both groups experienced signs of physiological reactions during the interview, the group exposed to the anti-gay statement showed a stronger physiological response.
In particular, their blood pressure and heart rates had risen higher, and recovered more slowly as compared to the other group.
Moreover, the first group had higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which is released by the body as a reaction to danger or a threat.
Huebner said their study “is one of the first to show how exposure to anti-gay prejudice really causes changes in physiological processes that can affect long-term health.”
However, Huebner noted that one limitation of their study is that the sample consisted of mostly young, white lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.