Heterosexual men suffer from more stress and anxiety than out gay and bisexual men, according to a new study.
Published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, the study sought out to identify if stress levels differ between heterosexuals, disclosed lesbian, gay, and bisexuals, and undisclosed LGBTs.
Researchers measured cholesterol, adrenaline, insulin, and the stress hormone cortisol in 87 men and women over a two-day period through repeated blood, urine, and saliva samples. Subjects were also asked to fill out a questionnaire measuring sexual orientation, stress, and depressive symptoms.
Researchers hypothesized that homosexuals would have higher cortisol levels than heterosexuals, although they expected that those homosexuals who disclosed their sexual orientation to friends and family would have lower stress levels than undisclosed LGBTs. What surprised them most was the fact that homosexual men had significantly lower levels than heterosexual men.
Robert Paul Juster, head author of the study and neuroscientist at McGill University writes, “Gay/bisexual men unexpectedly had lower depressive symptoms compared with heterosexual men. Within-group results revealed that disclosed LGBs had fewer psychiatric symptoms and lower cortisol levels compared with nondisclosed LGBs.”
Researchers believe that the act of disclosure is a strategy that fosters mental health.
“It has been proposed that certain kind of stigma-related stresses can produce adaptive behavioral responses that make individuals more resilient and effective at managing future stressors,” writes Juster.
Straight men and undisclosed LGBTs are less likely to experience the intense emotional release associated with “coming out,” leading to their higher stress levels. Juster suggests that “coming out of the closet to family and friends is an important life transition that may promote protection against stress-related symptoms and pathologies.”
Professor of Women and Gender Studies at University of San Diego Lori Watson explains the added pressure on straight men that could lead to higher stress levels.
“Due to the changing economy the traditional notion of masculinity is a harder role to fit for heterosexual men. This traditional role involves being a breadwinner, having a certain role in a family unit, being independent and self-sufficient.
“College graduates aren’t gaining employment and are often moving home. The traditional notions of masculinity are delayed or unavailable and so young men no longer have the ability to fit with a rigid notion of masculinity that their fathers grew up with,” he added.