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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stress and Mental Health Among Midlife and Older Gay-Identified Men

  • Author(s): Wight, Richard G.
  • LeBlanc, Allen J.
  • de Vries, Brian
  • Detels, Roger
  • Editor(s): Benjamin, Georges C.
  • et al.

Sexual minority stress, along with aging-related stress, jeopardizes the mental health of midlife and older gay men. In the study, sexual minority stress included the men’s perceptions that they needed to conceal their sexual orientation or that others were uncomfortable with or avoided them because of their sexual orientation. The study also found that legal marriage for same-sex couples may confer a unique protective effect against poor mental health. Having a same-sex domestic partner or same-sex spouse boosted the emotional health of the studied men, but having a same-sex legal spouse appeared to be the most beneficial relationship arrangement.

The study’s findings further suggest that targeted campaigns may be necessary to address this generation of gay men’s heightened risk for poor mental health. In addition to sexual orientation stigma, the studied men’s mental health was also negatively affected by having experienced the loss of many of their peers to AIDS. General aging-related stress, such as concerns over finances and independence, also affected the mental health of these midlife and older gay men.

The study was based on self-administered questionnaires completed in 2009 or 2010 by approximately 200 HIV-negative and HIV-positive gay-identified men between the ages of 44 and 75. The studied men were a subsample of participants in the UCLA component of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, one of the largest and longest running natural-history studies of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

The study was conducted by Richard G. Wight, MPH, PhD (Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, and the Williams Institute, School of Law, UCLA), Allen J. LeBlanc, PhD (Department of Sociology and the Health Equity Institute, San Francisco State University), Brian de Vries, PhD (Gerontology Program, San Francisco State University), and Roger Detels, MD, MS (Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, UCLA).

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