The Mental Health Disparity Among Nonheterosexuals : Risk, Resiliency, and New Perspectives to Consider in the Context of Mormonism
Utah State University
Despite substantial existing evidence that sexually diverse populations are at increased risk for mental health concerns due primarily to minority stress, how the underlying mechanisms of minority stress lead to specific psychological syndromes among these populations is not adequately understood. On the other hand, sexologists have been encouraged to shift the focus of their work towards understanding the specific characteristics or experiences that facilitate individuals' capacity to adapt and thrive within an oppressive and marginalizing society in order to "depathologize" non-heterosexuals. In attempts to address existing limitations and further the existing body of mental health risk and resiliency research among sexually diverse populations, three studies were conducted that sought to (a) examine how specific aspects of minority stress were individually and collectively associated with depression; (b) develop a new quantitative assessment tool used to evaluate the positive aspects of non-heterosexuality; and (c) explore levels of "outness" within various social contexts, as it relates to individuals' perceptions of the positive aspects of being non-heterosexual. Additionally, sociodemographic differences (e.g., gender, sexual identity, and level of affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS]) were explored with regard to each study's aims, respectively. Findings for Study 1 indicated that all minority stress factors examined were individually predictive of depression. When collectively examined, needs for others' acceptance was found to be the strongest predictor of depression, followed by internalized homophobia. Associations between specific stressors were moderated by level of affiliation with the LDS Church. Psychometric evaluations of the newly developed measure (Study 2) supported use of the measure by researchers and practitioners to evaluate positive aspects of non-heterosexuality. Finally, Study 3 demonstrated positive associations between perceived benefits of being non-heterosexual and disclosure of one's non-heterosexuality in all four social contexts examined. Results further indicated that levels of "outness" were moderated by gender. Implications for research and practice are discussed for each study.