Women are constantly being told by the media to be thinner, more beautiful, to shop more, and to emulate celebrities. In newspapers, magazines, on television and the internet, women consistently receive the message that they are not good enough and must try harder to improve their appearance and buy a range of products to help them become more desirable. Women as victims of advertising is a phenomenon dating back to the 1950s, as men in suits realised that female-targeted advertising could generate income based on status anxiety.
The harassment, discrimination, and negative feelings about homosexuality that black gay and bisexual men often experience can contribute significantly to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, a small new study finds.
“Racism, homo-negativity and the experience of violence and discrimination contribute significantly to mental disorder burden and morbidity in this community,” says Louis F. Graham, study author and a Kellogg Health Scholars postdoctoral fellow in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Using online surveys, Graham and colleagues asked 54 African-American gay or bisexual men about depression and anxiety symptoms and how often they experienced harassment and discrimination in the community and at work. The men also answered questions regarding their feelings about their own sexuality. The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Depression Research and Treatment.
Thirty percent of men in the study reported depression and 33% reported anxiety, which is higher than rates for people in the general population. Discrimination and harassment were extremely common, with 95% of the study participants experiencing them at least once in the past year. Eleven percent of participants said they experience discrimination and harassment weekly. Most of the men said that both race and sexuality played a part in their experiences of discrimination and harassment.
The researchers also found that men who reported higher levels of internalized homo-negativity feelings of shame or disapproval of their same-sex sexual orientation proved more likely to feel depressed or anxious.
“If we think about a whole pie that represents factors that may cause depression and anxiety among this population, findings suggest that discrimination and internalized homo-negativity make up over 50% of the pie,” Graham says. However, he also said that the factors they examined were not exhaustive and they did not follow the study group over time.
Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., an associate professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and a licensed clinical psychologist, says the study findings were not “bringing much new to the table,” due to the small number of study participants and the fact that the authors surveyed the group only at one period in time, rather than following them long-term. She had no affiliation with the study.
“Discrimination in any form is stressful and can be a risk factor for developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. In addition, depression and anxiety can make perceptions of racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination far worse,” Durvasula says.
Graham adds that the findings indicate that black gay and bisexual men experiencing anxiety or depression are not alone in their feelings.
“We sometimes think of mental disorders or mental health problems as being experienced on a very individual level, and that they’re caused by or related to personal shortcomings or specific situations or incidents. This study shows that mental disorders and mental health problems occur at a community level,” Graham says.
When it comes to white men, being straight may make you more likable, according to studies by psychologists at the University of Toronto. But in the case of black men, researchers say, gay men have a likability edge.
In one study, 22 women and nine men viewed 104 photos of straight and gay black and white males and rated their likability on a scale of one (not likable) to seven (extremely likable). Participants were not informed that some of the men pictured were gay. While overall, white straight men were rated as more likable than white gay men, black men were rated in the opposite manner: gay blacks were more likable than straight black men.
“We observed that people judge others based on sexual orientation even if they are not consciously aware of whether someone is gay or straight,” says Jessica Remedios, the study’s lead author. “By understanding how sexual orientation affects the rapid evaluations we form about others, we can learn more about predicting and minimizing the negative consequences of homophobia.”
In a second study, 36 women and 14 men were divided into groups to view the same 104 photos. One group was instructed to approach whites and avoid blacks by pulling a joystick toward them when a white face appears and pushing the joystick away when a black face appears; the other group was instructed vice versa, to approach blacks and avoid whites. Among participants approaching whites, the responses were faster for the straight men than for the gay. Among participants approaching blacks, however, responses were faster for gay than straight men.
“Given that faster approach responses indicate greater positivity toward stimuli, the second study is consistent with the liking expressed in the first study,” Remedios says.
“These findings suggest that sexual orientation, despite lacking explicit perceptual markers, infiltrates the automatic impression that is formed. Further, our judgment of gay men depends on whether they are white or black.”
Job-related stress is catching up with workers. A new study by Concordia University economists, published in BMC Public Health, has found that increased job stress causes workers to increasingly seek help from health professionals for physical, mental, and emotional ailments linked to job stress. Indeed, the number of visits to health care professionals is up to 26% for workers in high-stress jobs.
“These results show that people in medium-to-high stress jobs visit family doctors and specialists more often than workers with low job stress,” says Sunday Azagba, a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia department of economics.
“Stress can adversely affect an individual’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of disease,” study researcher Mesbah Sharaf says. “Numerous studies have linked stress to back pain, colorectal cancer, infectious disease, heart problems, headaches, and diabetes. Job stress may also heighten risky behaviors, such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, discourage healthy behaviors such as physical activity, proper diet, and increased consumption of fatty and sweet foods.”
Previous research has found that aging populations and prescription drugs increase the price of health care. Yet few studies have so far correlated workplace stress rates on health care costs.
In the United States, recent polls found that 70% of American workers consider their workplace a significant source of stress, whereas 51% report job stress reduces their productivity. “It is estimated that health care utilization induced by stress costs U.S. companies $68 billion annually and reduces their profits by 10%,” says Sharaf.
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health — there’s a long line of research that associates marriage with reducing unhealthy habits such as smoking, and promoting better health habits such as regular checkups. However, new research is emerging that suggests married straight couples and cohabiting gay and lesbian couples in long-term intimate relationships may pick up each other’s unhealthy habits as well. University of Cincinnati research into how those behaviors evolve will be presented August 23 at the 106th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.
Corinne Reczek, a UC assistant professor of sociology, reports three distinct findings into how unhealthy habits were promoted through these long-term, intimate relationships: through the direct bad influence of one partner, through health habit synchronicity and through the notion of personal responsibility.
Reczek reports that gay, lesbian, and straight couples all described the “bad influence” theme, while in straight partnerships, men were nearly always viewed as the “bad influence.”
“The finding that one partner is a ‘direct bad influence’ suggests that individuals converge in health habits across the course of their relationship because one individual’s unhealthy habits directly promotes the other’s unhealthy habits,” Reczek reports. An example would be how both partners eat the unhealthy foods that one partner purchases.
“Gay and lesbian couples nearly exclusively described how the habits of both partners were simultaneously promoted due to unhealthy habit synchronicity. For these individuals, one partner may not engage in what they consider an unhealthy habit on their own, but when their desire for such a habit is matched by their partners, they partake in unhealthy habits,” says Reczek.
“Third,” says Reczek, “respondents utilized a discourse of personal responsibility to describe how even when they observe their partner partaking in an unhealthy habit, they do not attempt to change the habit, indicating that they were complicit in sustaining their partner’s unhealthy habits. The final theme was described primarily by straight men and women.”
Reczek adds that the study is among the first of its kind to examine how gay and lesbian couples promote each other’s unhealthy habits.