Lesbians, gays and bisexuals who are out to others have been found to have lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of stress and burnout, according to a new study from the Université de Montréal.
Members of the LGBT community pass by a cathedral during the XII Parade of Sexual Diversity in Guatemala City. Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez
Researchers recruited 87 men and women of diverse sexual orientations, all around 25 years old and living in Montreal, to visit their lab over several visits. The research team collected data via psychological questionnaires and took saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol over two days. Using blood, saliva, and urine samples, the team also calculated "allostatic load," measuring how cortisol takes its toll on the body.
"Chronic stress and misbalanced cortisol levels can exert a kind of domino effect on connected biological systems," says study lead Dr. Sonia Lupien. "By looking at biomarkers like insulin, sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, adrenalin, and inflammation together, an allostatic load index can be constructed and then used to detect health problems before they occur."
"Contrary to our expectations, gay and bisexual men had lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels than heterosexual men," says lead author Robert-Paul Juster. "Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who were out to family and friends had lower levels of psychiatric symptoms and lower morning cortisol levels than those who were still in the closet."
"Coming out is no longer a matter of popular debate but a matter of public health," adds Juster. "Internationally, societies must endeavor to facilitate this self-acceptance by promoting tolerance, progressing policy, and dispelling stigma for all minorities."
The research was published in Psychosomatic Medicine on January 29.