Thursday, February 4, 2016

Raising Sexual Minority Youths’ Health Levels by Incorporating Resiliencies Into Health Promotion Efforts

Myriad health inequities that sexual minority youths (SMYs) experience have been documented over the past several decades. Evidence demonstrates that these are not a result of intrinsic characteristics; rather, they result from high levels of adversity that SMYs experience. Despite the pervasive marginalization that SMYs face, there is also evidence of great resilience within this population. It seems likely that if a culture of marginalization produces health inequities in SMYs, a culture of acceptance and integration can work to produce resiliencies.

We have described how promoting forms of acceptance and integration could work to promote resilient SMYs despite an overarching culture of marginalization.

Building on SMYs’ resiliencies may potentiate the effectiveness of health promotion interventions to reduce health disparities within this population.

…Perhaps the most important acceptance for SMYs is into heterosexual majority culture. Increased self-acceptance and integration into sexual minority communities can help promote the resiliencies necessary to offset or overcome the effects of not being fully accepted into mainstream culture. However, if sociocultural oppression and marginalization were diminished, the need for individual- and community-level intervention would be diminished. For example, Hatzenbueler et al. found that sexual minority individuals living in states instituting bans on same-sex marriage during the 2004 and 2005 election cycles had higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders than did heterosexuals in the same states and sexual minorities in states without such bans. Although the effects of institutionalized discrimination on the mental health of youths is unknown, these effects may be even more pronounced among youths coming of age, as these bans reinforce cultural assumptions about the abnormality of sexual minorities.

SMYs often come to terms with their sexuality in isolation, within a culture that may deny them access to such basic rights as marriage, adoption, and protection against housing and employment discrimination. Within this context it is not surprising that SMYs may lack some of the life goals and visions for the future that contribute to a trajectory of health. When SMYs mature in a context of full citizenship, with access to the range of benefits and rights afforded to their heterosexual peers, there will no longer need to be reliance on innovative ways to offset the risks associated with social marginalization. Rather, cultural acceptance and integration of SMYs into mainstream society will minimize the marginalization these youths experience, thereby minimizing resultant health inequities. Meanwhile, researchers must develop, implement, and evaluate interventions that increase acceptance of SMYs among communities-at-large…

Full article at:

All authors are with the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Correspondence should be sent to Amy L. Herrick, PhD, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (e-mail: ude.ttip@57hla). Reprints can be ordered at by clicking the “Reprints” link.
A. L. Herrick led the development of the article, including writing. All other authors contributed to the conceptualization of the commentary and reviewed the drafts.

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