Cortisol And The Closet

A new study from researchers at the University of Montreal looked at cortisol levels (a hormone associated with chronic stress, anxiety, and depression) in lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Though the study was originally intended to check for differences between this group and a group of heterosexuals, Joseph Stromberg is more interested in their secondary finding:

Their main findings were something of a surprise—among their sample of 87 participants, gay and bisexual men actually had a slightly lesser chance of depression and anxiety, along with lower stress levels (as indicated by cortisol and 20 other biomarkers) than heterosexual men. Perhaps most significant, though, was the secondary finding that they hadn’t even been searching for: In their study, lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals all tended to have lower stress levels and a smaller chance of depressive symptoms if they’d come out to friends and family than those who’d kept their sexual orientation a secret. “Coming out,” the authors write, “may no longer be a matter of popular debate, but of public health.”

His qualifier: “the study’s limited sample size means that these results can’t be interpreted as definitive, and further study is needed to confirm that they hold true on a widespread level.”