Cornell University recently completed a two-year study of peer-reviewed scholarship on the link between LGBTIQ discrimination and mental health. The study resulted in “a remarkably consistent conclusion that discrimination harms [LGBTIQ] people in far-reaching — and sometimes life-threatening — ways.”
Researchers wrote in the Washington Post that they focussed on a list of 300 articles. All those articles used a US-based sample, quantitative methodology and specifically measured victimisation based on the subject’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
245 of those studies found “unambiguous evidence” discrimination harms the mental health of LGBTIQ people. A further 41 of the studies reported mixed conclusions. Only 14 failed to identify a link.
Researchers concluded neither sexual orientation nor gender identity cause disproportionate mental health issues.
Rather, negative social messages, discrimination, and exclusion are to blame. Further, this explains why LGBTIQ youth have between two to seven times the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts of their peers.
The study showed also that even those not directly exposed to discrimination suffer in a hostile social climate.
“Even for the most resilient, exposure to discrimination — experiencing it or fearing it — is hurtful.”
LGBTIQ discrimination on religious grounds
In 2018, Harvard and other universities undertook research which looked at psychological measures before and after various American states legislated to allow discrimination on religious grounds.
In states that allowed discrimination they found a “46 percent relative increase in sexual minorities experiencing mental distress.”
Conversely, another study found a 7% drop in suicide attempts by LGBTIQ youth in states that legalised same-sex marriage.
The researchers use the term ‘minority stress’ to describe the effect of a hostile social climate. They found minority stress has measurable physiological effects. One study measured cortisol in transgender people. Cortisol is nature’s built-in alarm system — the body’s main stress hormone. The research showed higher stress levels in transgender people who encountered barriers to using public bathrooms.
Nathaniel Frank, one of the researchers who authored the Washington Post article said that the effects of discrimination were ‘compounded’ for some members of the LGBTIQ communities.
Those were LGBTIQ people of color, queer youth, and transgender people.
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