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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers Dean Examines Positive Development and Changes in Self-Rated Health Among Young Sexual Minority Males

A recent Rutgers School of Public Health Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) found that Young Sexual Minority Males (YSMM) who reported higher levels of self-rated health had better overall health.

Prior research has often examined YSMM health from a deficit-based approach. The CHIBPS researchers, led by Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, focused instead on examining how indicators of positive development are associated with the advancement of positive self-rated health in YSMM.

The researchers surveyed participants in their P18 cohort study, examining how three measures of positive development – the Life Orientation Test, the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and the Social Responsibility Scale (SRS) were associated with self-rated health (SRH), a valid and reliable measure of self-assessed general health status. Prior studies examining SRH within the YSMM population have focused on adults and made comparisons to heterosexual populations.

The study results suggest that YSMM who self-identified as gay reported higher SRH, indicating the importance of promoting environments where young gay men may freely and safely express their sexual identities. Not surprisingly, those who reported higher levels of substance use and mental health burdens reported lower SRH. Second, in linear growth models controlling for mental health burdens and substance use, higher levels of positive life orientation were associated with higher ratings of SRH over time.

“The presence of positive development characteristics, specifically generalized optimism, life satisfaction and social responsibility, may buffer against negative SRH assessments,” comments Dr. Halkitis, senior study author. “Health promotion programs focusing on positive development may more effectively promote health and well-being among YSMM.”

This study comes on the heels of a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, which recognizes the multi-level threats to the health of sexual minority populations and calls for additional research on the health and well-being of sexual minority communities. Additionally, the study suggests directing future research to focus on models of resilience rather than deficit in YSMM.

The study also aligns with the work of Dean Halkitis’ new book, Out in Time: The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation, which will be published ahead of the Stonewall 50 commemoration.  

“Positive Development and Changes in Self-Rated Health Among Young Sexual Minority Males: The P18 Cohort Study,” was published in Behavioral Medicine.