Online Program

Sexual orientation differences in allostatic load among adults, age 20-59 years, in the 2001-2010 NHANES

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Fielding School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management/College of Letters and Sciences Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Susan D. Cochran, Ph.D., M.S., Department of Epidemiology/Department of Statistics, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Teresa Seeman, Ph.D., Division of Geriatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Social disadvantage has been linked to markers of physiological dysregulation, or Allostatic Load (AL). In particular, chronic experiences with discrimination are thought to result in cumulative accumulation of physiological “wear and tear” at the individual level among socially marginalized persons. Objectives: We use information available in the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to investigate whether minority sexual orientation is a risk indicator for higher levels of AL. Methods: The NHANES draws a multistage complex sample of the civilian non-institutionalized population. Both sexual orientation measures and markers of AL are available for individuals, age 20-59 years, in the public dataset. Using multivariate regression methods in gender specific analyses, we examined AL score differences among lesbian/gay (n=211), bisexual (n=307), homosexually experienced (n=424) and exclusively heterosexual (n=13,017) persons, while adjusting for possible confounding due to demographic characteristics, health indicators, and, among men, HIV infection status. Results: Gay men evidenced significantly lower AL, but bisexual men had significantly higher levels of AL as compared to exclusively heterosexual men. No appreciable sexual orientation-related differences were observed among women. These results parallel recent findings that bisexual persons, among sexual minorities, experience the greatest degree of sexual orientation-related health disparities. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that bisexuality, particularly among men, is associated with evidence of physiological dysregulation thought to be driven to some extent by the harmful effects of social marginalization. These findings contribute to accumulating evidence that social marginalization has long term consequences for physical health.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe sexual orientation related differences in allostatic load. Explain the theoretical linkages between social marginalization and physiological dysregulation as indicated by markers of allostatic load.

Keyword(s): Gay, Stress

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a co-PI of this NIDA funded study. I conceptualized the project and directed the analyses
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.