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New study: Anti-gay prejudice increases health risks for gays, lesbians and bisexuals

WASHINGTON -- Lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGB) are at increased risk for physical health problems due to prejudice-related stress, according to a new study released today by The Williams Institute.

The report, "Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities," written by David M. Frost, Keren Lehavot and Ilan H. Meyer, will be presented at the American Psychological Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The researchers found that LGB people who had experienced bias-related major life events were about three times more likely to have suffered a serious physical health problem over a one year follow-up period than those who had not experienced such events. The effects of bias-related events remained statistically significant even after controlling for the experience of other stressful events, as well as factors known to affect physical health, such as age, gender, employment and lifetime health history.

"This study shows that stigma and prejudice have a great toll on the health of LGB people. Prejudice-related life events are more damaging to the physical health of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals than any other kind of stressful life event," said Dr. Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy and the senor author of the report.

"These findings demonstrate a clear need for interventions and policy change to reduce the stigma surrounded sexual minorities that is still prevalent in society," said Dr. Frost, assistant professor at San Francisco State University and the lead author on the report.

This report adds to current knowledge on the effect of hate crime on health outcomes. In the past, researchers have shown that hate crimes have a great impact on mental health than similar crimes not motivated by hate.

"Prejudice events attach to a history of marginalization and thus, can symbolize social disapprobation and rejection," Dr. Meyer said.

The researchers noted that further work is needed to replicate the finding of this study, to understand the specific health outcomes that are implicated, and to understand the mechanisms responsible for the connection between the life events and health outcomes.

The research was based on interviews with 400 sexual minority men and women in New York City over a one-year period and was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health.