Structural stigma and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis reactivity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults

Citation:

Hatzenbuehler, M. L., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2014). Structural stigma and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis reactivity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Annals of Behavioral Medicine: A Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine , 47 (1), 39โ€“47.
PDF250 KB

Date Published:

feb

Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Youth exposed to extreme adverse life conditions have blunted cortisol responses to stress. PURPOSE: This study aims to examine whether growing up in highly stigmatizing environments similarly shapes stigmatized individuals' physiological responses to identity-related stress. METHODS: We recruited 74 lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults (mean age = 23.68) from 24 states with varying levels of structural stigma surrounding homosexuality. State-level structural stigma was coded based on several dimensions, including policies that exclude sexual minorities from social institutions (e.g., same-sex marriage). Participants were exposed to a laboratory stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and neuroendocrine measures were collected. RESULTS: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who were raised in highly stigmatizing environments as adolescents evidenced a blunted cortisol response following the TSST compared to those from low-stigma environments. CONCLUSIONS: The stress of growing up in environments that target gays and lesbians for social exclusion may exert biological effects that are similar to traumatic life experiences.

Last updated on 09/13/2018