Remember the “It Gets Better” campaign aimed at stigmatized gay and lesbian youth? It turns out that the assertion should come with an asterisk: All that bullying and abuse may have long-term consequences.
When 1,103 North Americans were surveyed online, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals reported more chronic health conditions—such as heart disease, asthma, and osteoporosis—than heterosexuals, on average, even controlling for alcohol use and smoking. (Sexual behavior was not controlled for, but no subjects reported having HIV.)
A research team led by the psychologist Judith Andersen of the University of Toronto–Mississauga determined that the disparity can be largely explained by maltreatment suffered during youth. Compared to their straight counterparts, sexual minorities suffer higher levels of bullying by their peers and abuse (physical, verbal, or sexual) by parents or guardians.
“Experiences such as childhood victimization are particularly toxic to the developing brain and stress response system, and may shape lifetime health trajectories,” the researchers write in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
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