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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers Dean Re-Evaluates Life Stressors of Sexual Minority Men and their Association with Mental Health

Rutgers School of Public Health Dean, Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, and New York University colleagues have collaborated to develop and test the psychometric integrity of the Life Worries Scales, an instrument that was created to assess the life concerns of a new generation of gay and bisexual men.

Dr. Halkitis was inspired to create this scale to counter the decades-old definitions of HIV health as gay men’s health. The team at the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) have long recognized that the reality of HIV currently varies dramatically from the epidemic of 1980s. There is no doubt that sexual minority males experience heightened health disparities and adverse psychosocial burdens that fuel these disparities, but research that attempts to quantify these stressors is limited.  The team undertook the instrument assessment using baseline data form one of their ongoing studies (the P18 Cohort Study).  Using modern psychometric techniques, including exploratory structural equation model, they demonstrated that six domains of worry characterize the lives of millennial sexual minority men – financial stability, social stability, self esteem, loneliness, physical appearance, and physical health. All six domains of worry were highly associated with both symptoms of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This initial work, which is reported in the journal of Health Psychology, has applicability to other populations including all millennials regardless of sexual orientation.

Dr. Halkitis and his team plan to further examine the extent to which these worries may be conceived of as life stressors and are also related to risk behaviors including substance use and the vulnerabilities for HIV and other STIs. “Our work continues to forward the argument that gay men’s health and wellbeing is not just HIV health, especially for young men,” says Dr. Halkitis and his longtime collaborator Dr. Farzana Kapadia, associate professor of epidemiology at New York University College of Global Public Health.