Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Health Benefits of Coming Out

Sometimes we need a study to tell us what is obvious.  A new Canadian study published in Psychosomatic Medicine shows gays, lesbians and bisexuals who "come out" about their sexuality are less anxious, burnt out and depressed than those who stay in the closet.  AND they are even less anxious than straight people of similar age!

The researchers studied 87 men and women around 25 years old of various sexual orientations.  They measured stress hormone levels, 21 bio markers related to immune function and symptoms of depression and found that the subjects who were open about their sexuality were the most mentally healthy compared to those who were still in the closet.   Gays and lesbians who were honest with family and friends about their orientation no longer had to live a double-life and pretend to be something they weren't.

This study helped explain another study published last year in the American Journal of Public Health.  That one found that after Massachusetts enacted its same-sex marriage law in 2003, there was a significant drop in medical and mental health care visits by gay men.  Of course costs also went down.

It isn't a surprise that living an authentic, honest life and being open with one's values is a building block for emotional and mental health.  It is stressful to lie, hide or feel ashamed about one's self and stress hormones are released that contribute to anxiety, depression and even heart disease.  I see patients all the time that are ill because if "dis-ease" more than disease.  When we push feelings inside and don't deal with problems directly, it manifests in impaired immune systems, poor sleep, anxiety and disease.

So now we have at least two studies that show living honest, authentic lives are associated with better health.  I think we knew that all along.

2 comments:

KM said...

Great Blog post! I have seen other situations or aspects of life issues where the same thing you described about has happened especially in your part; " I see patients all the time that are ill because if "dis-ease" more than disease. When we push feelings inside and don't deal with problems directly, it manifests in impaired immune systems, poor sleep, anxiety and disease."
Interesting, so true and such an important point, but hard to know what to do to help them alleviate, correct or resolve the situation.

Steve Heilig said...

Good one indeed!
Here's my own on this, from Huffpo - was printed in SF Chronicle on Monday too: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-heilig/doctors-orders-let-gay-pe_b_2790557.html