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Nonevent stress contributes to mental health disparities based on sexual orientation: evidence from a personal projects analysis.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
1939-0025
Publisher
American Psychological Association
Publication Date
Volume
84
Issue
5
Pages
557–566
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1037/ort0000024
PMID: 25265219
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

This study examined the role of nonevent stress--in the form of frustrated personal project pursuits in the arenas of relationships and work--as a contributing factor to mental health disparities between heterosexual and lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations. A purposive sample of 431 LGB (55%) and heterosexually identified (45%) individuals living in the United States and Canada completed the Personal Project Inventory by describing and rating core personal projects they were pursuing. The intensity of perceived barriers to the achievement of relationship- and work-related personal projects served as indicators nonevent stress. Hierarchical linear regression models tested the hypothesis that nonevent stress contributes to the association between sexual orientation and two indicators of mental health: depressive symptoms and psychological well-being. LGB individuals had significantly more depressive symptoms and lower levels of psychological well-being than heterosexuals. Indicators of nonevent stress were significantly associated with mental health outcomes and their inclusion in models attenuated sexual orientation differences in mental health. The critical indirect pathway leading from sexual minority status to mental health occurred via barriers to relationship projects from interpersonal sources. This research suggests that nonevent stress because of structural and interpersonal stigma may contribute to mental health disparities between LGB and heterosexual individuals. The findings have important implications for policy reform around same-sex relationship recognition and workplace discrimination. Future research and clinical work will benefit by expanding existing foci on stress to include nonevent stressors to better understand and address mental health problems, particularly in LGB populations.

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