Study demonstrates health benefits of coming out of the closet

January 29, 2013, University of Montreal

Lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) who are out to others have lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout, according to researchers at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) at Louis H. Lafontaine Hospital, affiliated with the University of Montreal.

Cortisol is a stress hormone in our body. When chronically strained, cortisol contributes to the 'wear and tear' exerted on multiple . Taken together, this strain is called "allostatic load". "Our goals were to determine if the mental and physical health of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals differs from heterosexuals and, if so, whether being out of the closet makes a difference. We used measures of psychiatric symptoms, cortisol levels throughout the day, and a battery of over twenty to assess allostatic load," explained lead author Robert-Paul Juster. "Contrary to our expectations, gay and bisexual men had lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels than . Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who were out to family and friends had lower levels of and lower morning cortisol levels than those who were still in the closet."

Montrealers of diverse sexual orientations were invited to the laboratory of Dr. Sonia Lupien, Director of the CSHS. Lupien's team recruited eighty-seven men and women, all of whom were around twenty-five years of age. Over the course of several visits, the researchers collected psychological questionnaires, asked participants to provide to measure cortisol over two days, and calculated allostatic load indices using results from blood, saliva, and urine samples. " and misbalanced can exert a kind of domino effect on connected biological systems," Lupien said. "By looking at biomarkers like insulin, sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, adrenalin, and inflammation together, an allostatic load index can be constructed and then used to detect health problems before they occur."

Stigma-related stress might force LGBs to develop coping strategies that make them more effective at managing future stressors. "Coming out of the closet is a major milestone in lives of LGBs that has not been studied extensively using interdisciplinary approaches that assess stress biomarkers" said co-author Dr. Nathan Grant Smith. These exciting findings underline the role self-acceptance and disclosure has on the positive health and wellbeing of LGBs. In turn, this has important implications for ongoing political debates. "Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant social policies that facilitate the disclosure process" said Juster. "Societal intolerance during the disclosure process impairs one's self-acceptance that generates increased distress and contributes to mental and physical health problems."

"As the participants of this study enjoy progressive Canadian rights, they may be inherently healthier and hardier," Juster said. "Coming out is no longer a matter of popular debate but a matter of public health. Internationally, societies must endeavour to facilitate this self-acceptance by promoting tolerance, progressing policy, and dispelling stigma for all minorities."

Explore further: Researchers demonstrate that saliva analysis can reveal decision-making skills

More information: The research was published in Psychosomatic Medicine on January 29, 2013.

Related Stories

Researchers demonstrate that saliva analysis can reveal decision-making skills

December 10, 2012
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Granada Group of Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychoneuroimmunology has demonstrated that cortisol levels in saliva are associated with a person's ability to make good ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.