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Study: Mental health of gay seniors jeopardized by sexual minority stress

Friday, January 20, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Sexual minority stress, along with aging-related stress, jeopardizes the mental health of midlife and older gay men, according to a new study published by the American Journal of Public Health.

In the study, sexual minority stress included the men’s perceptions that they needed to conceal their sexual orientation, or that others were uncomfortable with or avoided them because of they are gay.

The study also found that legal marriage for same-sex couples may confer a unique protective effect against poor mental health. Having a same-sex domestic partner or same-sex spouse boosted the emotional health of the studied men, but having a same-sex legal spouse appeared to be the most beneficial relationship arrangement.

According to lead author Richard G. Wight, MPH, PhD, Associate Researcher at the Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, and Visiting Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute at UCLA:

“This study shines a light on the mental health of a generation of gay men who survived the early years of the AIDS crisis and came of age on the heels of the gay rights movement.

Whether legal marriage benefits mental health within same-sex couples in the way it has been proven to benefit different-sex couples deserves much more empirical attention, particularly given that same-sex marriage is not available in most states and was only briefly available in California in 2008.”

The study also suggests that targeted campaigns may be necessary to address this generation of gay men’s heightened risk for poor mental health. In addition to sexual orientation stigma, mental health was also found to be negatively affected by having experienced the loss of many of their peers due to AIDS.

General aging-related stress, such as concerns over finances and independence, also affected the mental health of these midlife and older gay men.

The study was based on self-administered questionnaires completed in 2009 or 2010 by approximately 200 HIV-negative and HIV-positive gay-identified men between the ages of 44 and 75. The studied men were a sub-sample of participants in the UCLA component of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, one of the largest and longest running natural-history studies of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

The study was conducted by the Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, and the Williams Institute, School of Law, at UCLA and the Department of Sociology and the Health Equity Institute, San Francisco State University.

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7 more reader comments:

  1. So sad, they just want to be happy and enjoy their golden years, but these Puritan aholes have to mess up that. Sad.

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 4:54pm
  2. Indeed.

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 4:59pm
  3. I don’t wanna even read the article…. the title makes me sad enough.

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 5:05pm
  4. We will just have to UNITE and KICK ASS!!!! I’M ANGRY, VERRRRY ANGRY!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 5:51pm
  5. I will be 71 years old in seven weeks, and I am a member of LGBTQ. I lived in Greenwich Village New York most of my life, and I was a Participant of the 1969 Stonewall raid and riots. Although, I have had many sex partners through the years, probably less than 500, I have never had a “Live-in sex partner. I always lived alone and chose sex partners when I needed them. I did write my memoirs surrounding the Stonewall Saga, but a lot was changed or exaggerated. I have much to be thankful for because I am still in good health and only take a pill for hypertension and BPH. Maybe my story can be of help to Science or individuals (http://amzn.com/1460948645)

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 6:07pm
  6. It’s sad to read, but yes- the vast majority of us really are going to live long enough to get old. Sorry about that, Neocons! *snarl* We Boomers, especially, need to get a handle on this now. We’ll be facing these challenges in only a very few more years.

    Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 6:17pm
  7. This study is long overdue. As a 47 year old gay male, I meet many others on a journey of loneliness. I am blessed to be in a loving 12 year relationship and know that I am happier because of this. I agree with Paul that NOW is the time to continue this discussion and open our arms to those who are struggling with later in life acceptance. We all need to feel loved and accepted, at 18 or 80!

    Posted on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 5:34pm