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Negative messages about same-sex marriage linked to greater psychological distress

The study showed that the stigmatized social status of lesbian, gay and bisexual identity may be a source of stress, but could also serve as a source of resilience when it provides individuals with opportunities for social support.

Photo by Radek Pestka from Unsplash.com

The fight for marriage equality shows the true colors of people around us. And we’re getting sick with the realization of how people really see us and our relationships.

This is the gist of a study done by psychologists at the University of Sydney, which showed that increased exposure to negative messages about same-sex marriage was associated with greater psychological distress for lesbian, gay and bisexual people (in this case in particular, Australians during the 2017 Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey).

Published in the Australian Psychological Society’s journal, Australian Psychologist, the study assessed the mental health of 1,305 Australians who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017.

The research found increased exposure to homophobic campaign and media messages was related to increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress among same-sex attracted Australians.

“The findings highlight how political decision-making and legislative processes related to the rights of minority populations have the potential to negatively affect their mental health,” said lead author Stefano Verrelli, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.

A silver lining: The study showed that the stigmatized social status of lesbian, gay and bisexual identity may be a source of stress, but could also serve as a source of resilience when it provides individuals with opportunities for social support.

The research also identified factors that can protect the mental health of same-sex attracted people during periods of intense public and political scrutiny.

“The family and friends of same-sex attracted people appear to play an important role – and seem to even offset some of the harm done by the negative side of these debates – by openly supporting LGBT rights,” Verrelli said.

LGBT rights and mental-health organizations also have an important role to play by continuing their public support of minority issues. Their public messages of support appear to improve the psychological well-being of same-sex attracted people who require it most.

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Verrelli and his research team in the School of Psychology – working with researchers at Macquarie University – used the minority stress model and surveys of mental health with lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians to reach their findings.

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