Sexual orientation modulates endocrine stress reactivity.

TitleSexual orientation modulates endocrine stress reactivity.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsJuster R-P, Hatzenbuehler ML, Mendrek A, Pfaus JG, Smith NGrant, Johnson PJai, Lefebvre-Louis J-P, Raymond C, Marin M-F, Sindi S, Lupien SJ, Pruessner JC
JournalBiol Psychiatry
Volume77
Issue7
Pagination668-76
Date Published2015 Apr 1
ISSN1873-2402
KeywordsAdult, Aging, Bisexuality, Estradiol, Female, Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, Female, Homosexuality, Male, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Male, Progesterone, Saliva, Self Concept, Sex Characteristics, Stress, Psychological, Testosterone, Young Adult
Abstract

BACKGROUND: Biological sex differences and sociocultural gender diversity influence endocrine stress reactivity. Although numerous studies have shown that men typically activate stronger stress responses than women when exposed to laboratory-based psychosocial stressors, it is unclear whether sexual orientation further modulates stress reactivity. Given that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals frequently report heightened distress secondary to stigma-related stressors, we investigated whether cortisol stress reactivity differs between LGB individuals and heterosexual individuals in response to a well-validated psychosocial stressor.METHODS: The study population comprised 87 healthy adults (mean age, 25 years) who were grouped according to their biological sex and their gendered sexual orientation: lesbian/bisexual women (n = 20), heterosexual women (n = 21), gay/bisexual men (n = 26), and heterosexual men (n = 20). Investigators collected 10 salivary cortisol samples throughout a 2-hour afternoon visit involving exposure to the Trier Social Stress Test modified to maximize between-sex differences.RESULTS: Relative to heterosexual women, lesbian/bisexual women showed higher cortisol stress reactivity 40 min after exposure to the stressor. In contrast, gay/bisexual men displayed lower overall cortisol concentrations throughout testing compared with heterosexual men. Main findings were significant while adjusting for sex hormones (estradiol-to-progesterone ratio in women and testosterone in men), age, self-esteem, and disclosure status (whether LGB participants had completed their "coming out").CONCLUSIONS: Our results provide novel evidence for gender-based modulation of cortisol stress reactivity based on sexual orientation that goes beyond well-established between-sex differences. This study raises several important avenues for future research related to the physiologic functioning of LGB populations and gender diversity more broadly.

DOI10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.08.013
Alternate JournalBiol. Psychiatry
PubMed ID25444167
PubMed Central IDPMC4434405
Grant List222055 / / Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Canada
K01 DA032558 / DA / NIDA NIH HHS / United States
K01 DA032558 / DA / NIDA NIH HHS / United States
SIA 95402 / / Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Canada